“Better Off Dead” leaps out with a gnarled, noisy verve, making terrific use of the kind of scronky attitude that marked early New Wave. Singer-songwriter Alex Matijow’s vocal stays with the period, as he howls and growls like the best late-1970s punk stars. It’s just as angry, too, though tightly focused on a relationship that’s been shattered.
Hard to believe, as a seething Matijow screeches out the lyric “I won’t miss thinking of you” that this was once, back in 2006, a love song. But after everything fell apart with the girl, Matijow refashioned the song in 2010 as an angry reply – then began experimenting with sounds on an Apple iPad.
Those digital emulations, coupled with his wintry howl, ultimately give “Better Off Dead” a more modern feel – as Matijow dives into the same kind of found-object, noise-based energy as early Nine Inch Nails.
Left alone with these swirling emotions, Matijow unloads a torrent of bile – first suggesting “there’s not a whole lot left to say,” before lashing out: “How did it taste when you ate my soul?” Then: “You ripped my beating heart right from my chest. All that blood on your face – how do you like that, bitch?” All of it leads up to the song title itself, and a scorched-earth guitar solo – the very sound of catharsis.
Many a brokenhearted lover has perhaps had these thoughts, experienced these turbulent feelings, but been unable to frame it with such searing honesty. “Better Off Dead” focuses squarely on the hurt, picking at the scab rather than covering it with a bandage.
Since reworking “Better Off Dead” a couple of years ago, Matijow has added a pair of talented musicians to what was once a one-man band in bassist Todd Errion and drummer Chris Hobbs. Here, though, you get the full brunt of both Matijow’s roving eye for fashioning music out of jagged sounds – and also his unvarnished, deeply personal pain over a love lost.
Review by Nick DeRiso
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)