Curreri the Younger: Playing His Own Way

How to Play the Songs of Matt Curreri 
Matt Curreri
(City Salvage Records )

Matt Curreri, brother of local country-blues mastermind Paul, is standing in a long shadow. A fabulous songwriter and versatile finger style guitarist, older brother Paul is a local phenomenon around here, and people on the street have been saying, "Do we really need another hip-looking skinny white boy guitarist?" (Okay, maybe that was just me).

The answer to that question is yes, as the younger Curreri, while lacking his brother's guitar virtuosity, has blossomed into a fabulous pop writer with a level of quirk that the elder only matches on his more lewd tracks (unrecorded, as far as I can tell).

How To Play the Songs of Matt Curreri is a breezy album, 12 tracks in length, where the shadows of the Kink's Ray Davies run deep– both in his grasp of a simple pop tune and his taste for shifting styles throughout the group's repertoire. Released by City Salvage Records (artist Andy Friedman and brother Paul's record/etc. label), How to play... is sweet and childish, though the latter is definitely not a bad thing here.

"Priorities" begins the album, a track that resembles a less punky "Punk Rock Girl" by the Dead Milkmen. The lyrics on the track are stream of consciousness: "I want to be a singer, but I don't want to leave my home, but I don't really have a home, so I might as well go roam, oh ho ho," as strummed acoustic and a bass drum backbeat continually push the song forward. Curreri's voice is part Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips and part Ben Kweller (with a healthy dose of his brother)– ladies will, undoubtedly, call it cute.

"Sweet Matthew," with backup vocals by Joanie Mendenhall (with whom Curreri lives in San Diego), is a slower waltz time tune, sounding a bit like an Elliot Smith lullaby, and even name-drops Palomar, everyone's favorite indie group of the female persuasion.

"Why He's So Blue" is a short little story number, which partly explains why "nothing surprises" the unnamed protagonist (Curreri doesn't really say, but I have my theory). Instrumentally sounding like it's being performed by a demented one-man band (knee cymbals and everything), the song is great fun to listen to and must have been even more enjoyable to record.

"The Next Thing You Know" is the one track where Curreri really varies from the simple acoustic guitar/snare/bass drum format, the repetition of which is my chief complaint when listening to How To Play... This song, composed of lo-fi keyboard backed by drum machine, and featuring Curreri singing with himself and the occasional electric guitar run, is my favorite on the album. There's something majestic in its distorted simplicity, where every melody line goes where it should, and every harmony is placed for the greatest effect.

Curreri the younger wisely decided to go in a different direction from brother Paul, and by my estimation, he has also done the family name proud.

How to...