Mathew Sawyer and The Ghosts - 'How Snakes Eat'

Tiffany Daniels 03/06/2010

Rating: 4.5/5

There's something about the macabre that draws me - if any band or musician takes it upon themselves to name their project after the remnants of a human being, a monster or a mythical creature, I find my hand inadvertently wandering towards their release, taking president over any other piece of work waiting patiently in the wings. A lot of the time it pays off: Dead Man's Bones and Lupen Crook are outstanding examples. Other times, I find myself staring into space in horror at the 'ambient' Goth coming from the folds of my speakers, and quickly write a sticky note reminding myself not to be so gullible next time.

What Mathew Sawyer and The Ghosts' new album 'How Snakes Eat' greets me with is not lo-fi or fight folk, but neither is it the before mentioned 'ambient' Goth. It's a strange amalgamation of the genuine and charming, the completely bonkers, and that bloke out of The Research in a particularly defeated mood. It's not actually that bloke out of The Research, mind. It just sounds a bit like him.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is an acquired taste, but I think I like it. No, I definitely like it. The 'monks going to the slaughter-house' rumbling on “She, the Farrey Tree” combined with the desperate and near hysterical crack of Sawyer's vocals redeem the album's initial plodding quality. “There is no Royal Road” draws strength from a drunk's indirect scarper home and a consequent nap on the sofa, the blatant lyrics of “Caroline” don't matter in light of the jolly chorus and “Blue Birds Blood” is about as threatening as a kitten hissing at the local Tom cat.

There are moments of sincere and catastrophically mental experimental on this album. Sawyer is both incapable of singing and totally unrestrained; his ghosts only encourage the noises he erratically records, but most surprising of all, it all works unbelievably well. I don't use the word 'unbelievably' lightly; I can't see how I could possibly convince anyone how all factors combined, this is not a total disaster, but it really isn't. It's making me laugh in total consternation at how it has possibly come to be; I'm giggling like a kid at a nutty Halloween party. Some of the other kids are running away in tears, but fuck it. Someone took a big chance signing Mathew and his ghosts, and I'm very glad they did. Bonkers talent like this doesn't come up and hit you over the back of the head before calling you a monkey and stealing your umbrella every day.

Release date: 21/05/2010