MATTHEW THE OXX – First Aid For The Drowning (Wild Sound WILDSOUND056)

First AidThe name Matthew The Oxx partially conceals the identity of Matthew Oldfield, son of Simon and nephew of Mike. It would have been very easy to cash in on the family name but Matthew has gone his own way and it has taken three albums for him to attract my attention. Too long perhaps.

First Aid For The Drowning is a complex album and if you’re looking for a simple explanation you’ve come to the wrong man. Matthew himself says that a lot of the album is about death, a subject open to many interpretations, but that doesn’t make it morose or depressing. You could write a thesis on the first track, ‘Beyond The Gates’. On one level it is about stepping out beyond the confines of our own lives, taking a chance on the future, ignoring the fear that holds us back. On another, it’s about the gates that lead to death and as Matthew says, “Nobody here really knows what’s out beyond the gates”.

Taken literally it’s quite mystical, conjuring up a picture of a river outside a city with a desert beyond. ‘I Want You’ and ‘I Am A Crow’ are both lyrically twisty, the former being quite jolly but shortly we get the almost conventional ‘Elizabeth Mary McCann’ about a convicted hit-and-run-driver – Mary was his victim. ‘We’re All Going To Die’ and ‘I Have Seen The Dogs’ are both pretty direct, too.

Matthew has a six-piece band with accordion, lap steel, piano and violins and he plays guitar and banjo which is a strong sound that sometimes feels at odds with the sentiments of the songs. That just gives the album an edge, despite its superficially prettiness – Matthew isn’t a singer-songwriter you’re going to get comfortable with on a summer afternoon; there are too many lines that pop up and make you think.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website:

‘I Want You’ live at The Clockwork Owl Sessions:

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