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Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts - Blue Birds Blood

  by Neil Palmer

published: 20 / 1 / 2007

Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts - Blue Birds Blood
Label: Catbird Records
Format: CD


Heartbreakingly honest and fresh-sounding lo-fi debut album from former Television Personalities drummer Mathew Sawyer and his new band the Ghosts

The enigmatic Mathew Sawyer is a man with many facets. He is an internationally respected visual artist, he’s played drums for the influential post-punk band the Television Personalities, and he is the lead singer and songwriter with his own musical collective, Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts. This man is clearly a creative force to be reckoned with. This month sees the release, on the US based Catbird Records, of Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts’ debut album ‘Blue Birds Blood’. “12 tracks of pure punk'd up, folk'd out, lo-fi love songs”, understates the label blurb. This album is so much more than that, and I suggest you go buy it today, immediately, right now before you do anything else. It really is that good. At the time of writing, Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts had racked up over twenty five thousand plays on MySpace, so evidently there’s many who agree, and the limited run is sure to sell out quickly. Furthermore, it is so rare to find an album this good hidden amidst the independent underground I suspect the major labels will be knocking on the door of Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts before too long. Stay one step ahead, get in first, and beat the crowds. The first track, and worth the purchase price alone, is ‘Penny Falls’. It is the perfect introduction to Sawyer’s fragile sounding yet seductively emotive voice. Accompanied only by acoustic guitar and some choral like harmonies, Sawyer spins a tale of anguish, outlined with some wry introspection. “I have learnt the universe was so big, they told me that at school / so maybe it's not loneliness alone that makes you feel so ------- small”. In comparison, the second song, ‘Heartbreaker’, is a lo-fi, danceable steamroller of a track, that only dips for the 60's style, Phil Spector-ish like choruses. Brilliant. By track three though we’re taken back down a pace or two with ‘So Glad You Came’, a lilting folksy number, set to a sparse beat, that introduces listeners to Sawyer's love of the ukulele, an instrument that also features elsewhere on the album, adding to the record's already distinctive sound. ‘Blue Birds Blood’ is an album not afraid to reveal its influences. Jonathan Richman, the Velvet Underground and the Raincoats all pop their heads out from behind the curtains, and even Joy Division take a peek from behind a closed door. Having said that, Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts have made a record that is very much their own, fresh sounding and unlike any one of the above. It has a simple, straightforward production, minimal instrumentation, and a heartbreakingly honest delivery, allowing Sawyer’s voice, and the essence of each song, to shine through. Although it is only the second week in January, ‘Blue Birds Blood’ is almost certainly going to be my record of the year. I’ll be very surprised if another comes even close. Besides, any one who sings that Johnny Cash was speaking in his head, as Sawyer does on ‘Don’t Ever Die Johnny’, is always going to get my vote. I recently caught up with Mathew at a London show where he was playing a solo support slot, more of which elsewhere, and just had to say hello. When I asked about his musical ambitions, he told me, “I want to make a record as good as the Raincoats first album. It’s perfect”. Whether or not he has achieved that with ‘Blue Birds Blood’, is ultimately only for Sawyer to decide. Judging by the obvious pride he revealed when telling me that Vic Godard had covered three of the songs from ‘Blue Birds Blood’ at recent Subway Sect gigs, it, however, seemed to me that at least one musical milestone had already been passed. ‘Blue Birds Blood’ is available now at catbirdrecords.com. The first 200 orders come with a 3-song bonus CD, in hand-screened sleeve.

Track Listing:-
1 Penny Falls
2 Looking Right Back At Me
3 Don't Want To Hang Around
4 Heartbreaker
5 So So Glad You Came
6 Further Away From The Sun
7 Love Will Come To Town
8 Go Out On The Streets
9 Paris In The Spring
10 When Death Walks In
11 In A Haunted House
12 Don't Ever Die Johnny

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Interview (2007)
Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts - Interview
Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts have produced one of the finest debut albums of the year with the punky Folk Country 'Blue Bird's Blood'. Neil Palmer chats to Sawyer, who is both a working artist and the former drummer with the Television Personalities, about his music and his art

live reviews

Legal Tender, Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, London, 6/1/2007
Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts - Legal Tender, Bethnal Green Working Men's Club,  London, 6/1/2007
In the woefully inappropriate surroundings of the Legal Tender night at the the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, Neil Palmer watches former Television Personalities' drummer Mathew Sawyer play a vulnerable, but emotive solo set to promote his and his band the Ghosts new album 'Blue Birds Blood'

digital downloads


How Snakes Eat (2010)
Offbeam folk pop on challenging, but compulsive second album from London-based band Mathew Sawyer and the Ghosts

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