Matt & Kim Matt & KimSidewalks
When a band sees that they can capture the spotlight with a couple of songs—this is what happened with Matt & Kim barely a year ago, when “Daylight” emerged, and when that clip where they pixelled over their privates started to circulate– there is always an internal debate like the one Yeah Yeah Yeahs met in 2008. What to do? Do we slow down and throw ourselves without hesitation into mass-appeal, or do we leave things as they are and keep the same line, as if none of this had happened? Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino have abandoned their do-it-yourself premise and, for their third LP, “Sidewalks,” they have taken the advice of producer Ben Allen, whose curriculum includes names like Deerhunter, Animal Collective and Gnarls Barkley. Far behind is that moment when Matt boasted of composing while lazing about on the sofa at home surrounded by synthesised junk while his partner was beating on the drum like a troglodyte. Not to mention the carefree punk halo—I’m only talking about the sound—of his recent past.
Live they are still a sure bet, as could be seen at festivals last year, including Primavera Sound: a band with an immaculate smile that transmits an admirable good vibe with very little. This fact has not changed, but what is true is that their new musical phase has undergone surgery, and in the process, they have stripped their sound of the punk identifying features that until now were basic to their proposal (except for “Silver Tiles”, an old faithful song from their live repertoire and which is finally being released with a delay of several years). So we shouldn’t be surprised that two pieces like “Block after Block” or “Cameras” –a fine irony dedicated to the tiresome types who can’t live without taking a photo in any context and who block your view at a gig– use hip hop bases that may seem really strange the first time you hear them to people who had a good time with them in days gone by with “Grand” (2008).
Another element to emphasise as a consequence of passing through the recording studio is the including of new instruments that they hadn’t explored until now. For example, the tubas of the aforementioned “Cameras”, or the violins of the half-time “When You’re Coming From”, violins that in the case of “Good for Great” seem to be hammered into a can. This should be considered as a step towards maturity for the Brooklyn duo, but the truth is that except for some truly infectious songs, like the homage to TV On The Radio’s “Wolf like Me” ( “Red Paint”) or “Ice Melts”, which would be the trumpeting envy of the Talking Heads of “Burning Down the House”, “Sidewalks” as a whole is a false step in their career. They are no longer a band with a punk legacy, but rather an ordinary pop duo that uses Casiotones and vintage synthesisers. Was this the turn that they had wanted to take all these years? We can’t venture a guess, but I’m almost certain this album won’t last very long in my player.
Sergio del Amo
Matt & Kim - Cameras