Holy shit. Has this kid come a long way or what. Often when I write about former reality TV contestants come good, I make it my mission not to mention the name of the show which initially made them famous or anything that may trigger past memories, for I feel it clouds over the current music they’re making. So if you already know who Matt Corby is, and haven’t heard his latest record, prepare to have your face melted off. If you’re one of our foreign readers, you’re in for an even better surprise. When Matt was first starting out on his own way back in 2009 or something, his publicists (or maybe it was actually him) sent us one of his first EPs to listen to, keen to see what we thought. And though D was initially more excited by the fact that Corby had grown a beard, we both agreed that something wonderfully special was happening and we tracked Matt’s progress from there as we could. But one other thing my brother did mention, which I find especially pertinent given Matt’s recent securing of the #3 spot in Triple J’s Hottest 100 in amongst a slew of other awards for this track was this: ” Instead [of pop], he’s chosen to take what seems to be almost an inevitably doomed path and reinvented himself as singer/songwriter and young folk icon.” As a matter of fact, I happen to agree. The hirsute Corby we knew three years ago was certainly a talent but he was also travelling down a well-worn path without making a definitive finger-painting in the cement of his own. Indeed, it’s only in the last two EPs – artist development over extended time periods, who knew such a thing could still exist? – that we begin to see what he was always capable of. It’s more than folk, it’s more than another singer-songwriter, it’s just something really original, fresh and interesting and I can see why the rest of my country is quickly waking up to it. It wasn’t the Gotye airwaves slayer but it had an undercurrent that was similar to that of The Middle East’s ‘Blood’ a few years back; everyone stopped dead and wondered aloud ‘Who the hell is that?’
That Corby has a tremendous voice and range was never up for dispute, even back in the halycon days when he was better known for covers than originals. But just because God gave you good pipes doesn’t necessarily translate to knowing what to do with them. ‘Brother’ is a perfect example of Matt taking all conventional ideas about successful pop writing and throwing them out the door with his razor (we really need to stop making these beard jokes, you should see us two). The falsetto centrepiece sounds like a bird cry rather than a soothing operetta and it sets out a cue for the rest of the work which grows incrementally in emotion from the smouldering opening verse through to the endless repeats which get angrier and more visceral each time around. As Matt has made clear in interviews, the subject matter for this tune is intensely personal, and it’s obvious. It allows him to channel artists which I never would have thought to associate with him, including the Sin-e caterwauling of Jeff Buckley and the bar-fighting charm of Ryan Adams. He could play this a million times over and I guarantee you people would still listen. When talent is matched by execution, especially in a guy who is controlling the emotional level with his own pick, the results are always amazing. It’s similar to the feelig I had when I heard another brilliant young man, Thomas Calder, for the first time last year.
To be honest, you need to hear this song live in a buzzing cafe or lounge setting to really get the feel for it. I’m not one for posting videos if I don’t need to but the difference between the versions is too great not to include both. When he performs this song live, alone, Corby extends this tune out for over seven minutes and it’s absolutely breathtaking. I saw him do it last week at a crowded awards ceremony and not one person talked the entire time. I think someone actually dropped their beer because they were in such a rush to start clapping. What the recorded version does have over this is the sense of immediacy augmented by some violently good instrumentation, but I’m a sucker for the minimalist approach. Look at me, torn between two copies of the same song like a girl trying to choose which heels to wear on Saturday night. Since I can’t do it, you can have both. I’m mainly interested in the bit where he sabotages his own ornateness and starts screaming like a banshee ‘You couldn’t help out your own neighbour…’ It’s not like amping up the volume isn’t standard fare in these kind of songs, but there’s something much deeper and intriguing going on here. Musically, I believe ‘Brothers’ puts Corby at a crossroads where his next step can only be a great one. It’s a song of real musical substance – the guitar line doesn’t even change all that much but it shifts like sand as the vocals move towards that ultimate goal of revealing a bruise that nobody else was meant to see. It’s time to get hooked.
Matt Corby – ‘Brother’