Chaz Matthews has to be given credit for one thing: It takes a lot of balls to be a one man band. If the record sucks, you can only blame yourself. Matthews accepts this challenge with Amazing Graceless, his first solo record since the breakup of the Dimestore Haloes. The risk doesn’t pay off.
The logic behind this record was quite simple. Matthews was dealing with his personal demons, wrote a bunch of songs, and wanted to get them out. This approach often results in a classic album, because it is written and recorded in the heat of the moment. The problem with Amazing Graceless is not the music itself. Matthews is a talented songwriter, and the songs are some of the best of his career. He has a remarkable ability to put the listener in his shoes. You feel the pain, the angst and his desperation. When he croons “I need a fix and your kiss,” in “Girl From Detox,” he’s not just referencing The New York Dolls. So if the songs are good, how come the record gets a low rating?
The production on Amazing Graceless nearly kills the listening experience. One of the most appealing things about the Dimestore Haloes was Matthews’ knack for writing addictive guitar riffs. The riffs are still there, but you have to listen really hard to find them. The guitars are a buzzing wall of white noise, and it takes two or three listens before you find the riff. Matthews also makes the mistake of using a drum machine, which makes the drumbeats nearly inaudible.
The production is so bad that the sound quality fluctuates from track to track. On one track the vocals are louder than the guitar, on another the guitar drowns out the vocal. The bass is non-existent. You end up listening to the album in chunks, because you can’t take it all at once. Matthews’ ambitious decision to produce his own record and play all the instruments is admirable, but couldn’t he have ponied up the cash for a real producer and a drummer? Instead of listening to the songs, you end up thinking “Wow, I bet this sounds amazing live.”
Ultimately Amazing Graceless is an album of “What if’s?” What if The Dimestore Haloes recorded this song? How would this sound with a real drummer? Where is the bass guitar? Raw production is a good thing for punk rock, but you should be able to listen to the songs. Amazing Graceless is proof that just a little production goes a very long way.