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MP3 Matt Roberts - The Ruby Record

Manic romantic suburban acoustica, more staggering than genius, but we can''t all be Mozart...

12 MP3 Songs
POP: with Live-band Production, POP: Folky Pop

''Can the word "Melbourne" be an adjective? A wander among the treasures that comprise The Ruby Record, the debut studio album from Melbourne singer-songwriter Matt Roberts leaves little doubt in the affirmative. Whilst ranging from weightless, poetic guitar pop to knockout piano soul and flaunting influences that span several generations (The White Album, Joni Mitchell, early Billy Joel, later Neil Finn, Tim Rogers), the common thread that pulls these 12 red gems together is, well, their Melbourne-ness. Recorded with up-and-coming label Sound Vault Records in the former industrial heart of West Melbourne, this is stripped-back acoustic bliss so real and immediate that you can almost hear the V-line locomotives thundering past in the adjacent railyards. Roberts'' guitar work (and I mean work!) is certainly evocative of several tons of diesel engine - powerful, raw, yet internally intricate - was this really recorded using the pickup alone?

Long-time co-conspirator David Kipp adds fuel to the fire with searing backing vocals and basslines so smooth, steely and reliable you could run express trains along them. The album opens with booming bass drum under the right foot of Kipp''s Bathysphere bandmate, Matt Mulcahy, guiding us with the precision of a signalman and the bounding passion of a trainspotter through 45 minutes of clattering rhythms that describe daily beauty, ritual joys.

And the centrepiece of this rail analogy? The passengers, the freight, the reason for all the noise? The lyrics of Matt Roberts, for this is where this ruby really shines. Roberts stands and delivers (in a voice recalling Bowie, Finn, Freedman) line after line of accessible, unpretentious suburban storytelling. By the third listening we really wanted to meet Charlie, the ageing remorseful patriarch of the opening track (Hey Betty), and May, the blacksmith''s sister (Me and May As Well) who lives above the fire station as she finds the sirens a turn-on. Then there''s that postgirl who appears in the sensual painting on the back cover (and the sherbet fountain that is Madame Ruby and the Postgirl)- what did she ever see in the garbageman? Hilton Street had us reaching for the Melways, such is Roberts'' description of idyllic urban-village living, whilst the final track, Tullamarine, with its lustrous tenor saxophone and winter-dusk piano made you want to jump on the desk, thump your chest and shout "I''m from there! I know this place!!"

Right now, Matt Roberts is a bloke in a beanie on the Broadie line, another face in the rush-hour crowd you never make eye contact with. Like all city-dwellers, he probably loves the anonymity. That may just change; those boyish features, contorted with a singer''s furious glee, adorn the maroon-and-white cover of The Ruby Record, due for nationwide release this September. Will he be famous? Will you, and thousands of others, run out and buy this red disc when it gets the airplay it so clearly deserves, filling your homes, cars and headphones with a sound so Melbourne you offer your landlord a million bucks to stay right where you are? Does it matter? That face on the cover says not really. It says Matt Roberts is having the time of his life. We''ll have what he''s having.''
- Jeff McConnell, August 2002

''If you happened upon Matt Roberts playing down the local and took home a copy of The Ruby Record, you’d probably be well pleased with your little discovery.
Coming across like a youthful Paul Kelly singing early Whitlams songs backed by Weddings Parties Anything, Roberts’ songs go beyond wry social observation to tell stories that really ring true.
‘Hey Betty’ examines the decline of an ageing patriarch, ‘Madame Ruby and the Postgirl’ peers quizzically at Internet relationships and ‘Hilton Street’ (“Everybody loves you here as long as you can park with precision”) details the Melbourne experience of “inner-city living”.
For the most part it’s quirky pop, driven either by piano or acoustic guitar, but there’s a real depth to the lyrics that has lasting appeal.''
- Julian Porter, TIME OFF, October 2002

''Having carved a niche in Melbourne with his live solo performances and following two self-recorded albums, Matt Roberts has issued his debut studio album, The Ruby Record. The disc opens with Hey Betty (The Great Unspoken) which, with its confident mix of vocals and jaunty acoustic guitars, could easily pass as a Robert Forster and Grant McLennan composition. While many of the songs on the album evoke an era of simpler lifestyles and unreserved vitality, Roberts’ wry conjectures on romance in Madame Ruby & The Postgirl (‘we met in a chat room - https://www.tradebit.com’) should not be neglected. Clever witticisms infest plenty more of the tunes on this debut, and Roberts acknowledges this strength by including all lyrics in the accompanying sleeve - for those who may miss the acid tongue on casual listen.

While The Ruby Record mostly relies on Roberts’ smart turns of phrase rather than a significant measure of musical distinction between each acoustic track, the lush piano and trumpet affair of Lunch With Beauty could almost be performed from a stray Bacharach/David blueprint. So too the piano-led Morning Star, which also ditches the subtle humour for a reverential torch song.

The talent of Matt Roberts indicates that Paul Kelly may have a successor in the wings.''

-Scott McLennan, Rip It Up, Adelaide, 8/8/02

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