Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate uncertain is the 2004 second solo album Early Side Of Later by British singer-songwriter, twin, and former-Bros member, Matt Goss. Will this album Fly straight to your heart, or will you say Laters to it? Read on…
This 11 track CD opens with lead single Fly, ushered in by some really nice warm acoustic guitars, before dropping a nice beat. This combination instantly reminds me of Madonna’s Don’t Tell Me vs a missing Morcheeba track. Matt’s soft soulful voice is recognisable from his Bros days, but also leans towards a warmer George Michael sound, and it sounds really nice here with the choice of synthscapes, warm guitars, vocal harmonies, and occasional record scratches. The track sadly narrowly missed the top 30, stumbling at #31 in the UK singles chart.
That’s followed by Watch Me Fall, which has an intro which instantly makes me want to sing George Michael’s As or Waiting For That Day over the top. It has the gentle swagger of the latter, and the layers of vocals and acoustic guitars. Once again, Matt’s vocals are warm but also soft and delicate. He’s flanked by female backing vocalists, and some bleeping synths, until the chorus when an electric guitar joins in as the vocals lift up to show off some of that Bros raw vocal power. The track alternates between this formula, resulting in a really nice gentle song, that comes awake in the final furlong.
Carolyn follows this, and it is of course a song in the name of the Goss twins’ late sister who was killed in a car crash. It’s a clearly personal song about missing his sister, and it allows Matt to show off his vocal range and layers of harmonies (almost gospel choir styled at times) over a simple guitar and handclap track, whilst loaded with heartfelt lyrics.
Then it’s Face The Wind, which leads in with acoustic guitars and soft strings. This is a gentle ballad, with very light percussion and descending chord sequences as Matt’s rich and warm vocals weave like silk throughout it. The track flows easily, and the chorus’ ‘dah dah dah‘ lyrical sequence helps to offer a catchiness amidst the downbeat sound. This really should have been a single. The mid section allows Matt to show off some more of his rockier vocals that we know he can deliver with perfection, and he really shines with some big long notes.
Record scratching drops us in on Many Roads, with a repetitive sequence, instantly giving us a little catchy riff to follow through the song. Matt’s vocals are soft and breathy for this song, as the song bounces along nicely. It’s slightly country-styled, but it builds nicely with layers of vocals, synths, and guitars.
Then it’s straight into Just For A Change, leading with a brushed snare and acoustic guitar. Here, Matt sounds like he’s sounding vocally different – almost like he’s singing to an accent. In the playful narrative of lyrics (‘I never want biscuits unless I’ve got tea‘) he craftly name checks earlier Bros hit Cat Amongst The Pigeons. It all gently strolls in a build up to 2m 10s when Matt bursts open his vocals – as the drums get harder as do the guitars, and he flashes that rock vocal with ‘make some noise‘.
We Can’t Lose is next, and we’re treated to some strings, chimes, and a soft ballad. Matt easily works his way through these loved-up lyrics, and whilst he puts in a good show surrounded by wonderfully warm vocal harmonies, it does have a faint whiff of the Westlife song box.
Following that is Perfect Girl, and we’re back into up-beat foot-tapping territory. Lots of shuffling beats, and what could be mistaken as a harpsichord in the background. I like the bass in this track – it’s simple, but it helps to hold the track together.
Then it’s Best Part Of Me, which opens with sexy whispering before a guitar and piano lead us towards the first verse. Here, Matt is waiting for us with warm echoey vocals, again referencing an earlier Bros hit (Silent Night this time). The chorus pumps a bit more vocal energy into the song, but it’s a pretty sleepy song, reliant on quite a lot of repetition as it meanders along.
Fever follows this and it has a really nice percussive sound that underlines the track throughout. Here, Matt’s vocals are really rich and warm, complimented perfectly with layers of breathy harmonies. This culminates in a really nice song, that echoes some of those more tender Michael Jackson tracks, and there’s even a few moments of really nice vocal play in the final third of the song.
The album closes somewhat aptly with a piano treading us gently into ballad Goodbye. It’s a simple song, allowing Matt to really show off his vocal range, power, and lyrical tenderness throughout, culminating in a wonderfully big and fragile ending. His voice sits perfectly alongside the piano, and vocal harmonies, and this is an apt and perfect ending to the album.
Over all, this is one of the best George Michael albums he never made.
Matt shines throughout this album, thanks to the power and gentle soulfulness of his vocals, nestled amongst wonderfully warm acoustic guitars, strings, and shuffling percussion. Fly and Face The Wind are the two strongest tracks here, but there are several other close contenders. Face The Wind really should have joined Fly as a single. We Can’t Lose and Perfect Girl are possibly the two weakest tracks here, but there’s nothing problematic about them, they’re just a bit dull.
It’s a laid-back album, and that is probably why it feels more comparative to George Michael than anything else, but ultimately it does feel 100% Matt Goss, whose vocals are instantly recognisable throughout.
I’m stuck as to why this album failed in the UK charts so miserably, when listening to it now shows just how wonderful it is.
- POP RESCUE 2022 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2004 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #87
- POP RESCUE COST: £3.49 from an eBay seller.