Matthew Scott - Variant
In an industry seeing the emergence of a new singer/songwriter star every week, Matthew Scott, at least, does not have any pretence of taking over from Blunt and (grimace) Powter: Scott is the songwriter of this album, and vocals are provided, in the main, from other singers.
Also unlike standard s/s albums, Scott - perhaps indicated in the title - dabbles in several genres over the course of the 12 songs here. Variant opens with soft-rock style tracks, as though Maroon5 were attempting to emulate Lostprohpets. Laden with grunge-driven riffs and angsty lyrics, Seven Days A Lifetime is the most successful song in this area, especially apparent with the chorus' catchy 2 part harmonies.
Nelle's Dream is a 4-minute hair-metal freak out, an almost carbon copy of how Iron Maiden would fiddle about with one of their hits at a live show. It remains, however, nothing new, instead being only a parody of 80s stadium rock. Acoustic ballad Believe In Me and over-long country infused Clydach sound suited to a pop artist such as Westlife or Lee Ryan, while pure filler comes in the shape of the pointless, 1-minute long instrumental My Blues. More 80s metal parody, this time taking Metallica's word on how to do it, on The Struggle Within. An almost criminal 6 minutes in length, it simply fails to do justice to the genre it imitates, and certainly doesn't warrant the amount of time it takes to finish. The following track Between Two Worlds is in danger of falling foul of the same problem, though in the end sounds like the first 2 tracks again, more pop-rock than Grandpop- rock.
Variant fizzles out with gentle acoustic and harmonic Perfect Friends (imagine a slow 'well it's true that we love one another') and then, a kiddie/blues/jazz mess that is The Street, a song about Sesame Street. In hindsight, leaving this off the album should have been as vital as remembering to put 'Matthew Scott' on the front of it.
One gets the feeling, though, that this album is less about being an album and more about showcasing Scott's talents as a songwriter. There is certainly talent evident, not least because the songs achieve what they're meant to achieve. The soft-rock tracks are spot on, the pop-song efforts are simple but gently effective, and Scott hones these styles down very well. The stadium metal parodies are curious, though again reveal Scott's ability to compose in various genres. Recklessly including The Street very nearly renders the album null and void, but having said that, only points further to this being a collection of Scott's songwriting capabilities rather than a proper album. So, full marks for the pop and rock songs, kudos for attempting the Maiden pastiches, and a week's detention for the playschool drivel at the end.