He Does What He Wants and It Rocks
Look into the eyes of Matthew Logan Vasquez and get a taste of the emotion, the pure humanness of him and how that’s reflected in the music that lies ahead. Does What He Wants could’ve gone by a few different names —perhaps A Year in the Life of Matthew Logan Vasquez, or Joy, Sadness, and Other Emotions, or other titles related to the honesty and feelings he shares with his listeners in this forty minute, eleven-track LP. Regardless, it’s a solid album.
The intro is odd at first; after a creepy, insect-like ambience gets interrupted by the tastefully dirty drumbeat, “Same” (the opening track) and the rest of the album really take off. Nearly every song ends immediately before the next one begins – not quite seamless transitions, but ones that warrant a checking of the phone/computer to see if the song has really changed. There’s no dull moment in this record. A few of the tracks start with just guitar and then halfway through are joined by the drums, but even the simple guitar-only portions are captivating enough to maintain interest. Unlike albums of essentially one style that are consistently solid from start to finish, making it difficult to pick out favorite tracks because they all sound the same, Does What He Wants has enough variety in style that it’s much easier to pick out favorite tunes – they don’t all blur together as “songs on that album.”
In a few ways, this album seems like a dream. The abrupt start of the driving guitar and bass in “Same” is similar to the way that people never remember the beginnings of dreams, they just find themselves in them. The steady eighth notes of the guitars sound like an engine that was already running (since there’s no drum intro or count-off). And the creeping bug-like sound is like someone, perhaps in a dream, peering their head around an unfamiliar corner, uncertain of what lies around it only to find this new world – the world of Matthew Logan Vasquez — in full swing.
Imagine that there’s a tour guide in Vasquez’s head and he’s showing the listeners around, stopping and getting distracted at all the memories and moments that we hear musically, only to remember that there’s a lot to see on the tour, and that he, the tour guide, can’t dilly-dally (hence the speedy transitions between songs). The guide shows those on the tour some of the sadder moments when he says “I know I can change” in “Tall Man” and performs the tear-inducing guitar intro of “The Informant.” Also on display are his past love of video games (as heard in “Red Fish,” which sounds very much like video game music until the vocals come in) and his appreciation of other bands (the Muse-sounding closer “House Full of Music,” the Phoenix-sounding vocals in “Fires Down in Mexico” and “Old Ways”). The tour also makes a stop by Vasquez’s childhood with the sentimental, semi-atmospheric “Fatherhood,” featuring the most emotion-stirring guitar lick on the album. The beat of “Fires Down in Mexico” sounds kind of like that of a garage band, bringing up memories of when Vasquez was in a band with some of his childhood friends. Listeners are even treated to some of the voices inside his head with the strange vocal sample on “The Fighter.” If none of these things actually happened to Vasquez in real life, then it makes all the more sense that it’s just a dream.
The closing track, “House Full of Music,” is a momentous waltz that is perfect as the last track on the album, and signals that the end is near. This rounds out the idea that this album is like being in a dream, especially when the music ends around three minutes in and is substituted for a soft drone bordering on silence, only to get interrupted by a voice saying, “Flip over the record,” before immediately ending. Those last words serve as someone trying to wake another person from sleeping, and the soft drone is the purgatory between the last thing one remembers from the dream and waking up.
Does What He Wants is a terrific display of talent in terms of performance, songwriting and concept (even if the concept was unintentional). Each song acts as its own essential part of the story of Matthew Logan Vasquez, with captivating grooves and riffs in almost every one. It’s a stellar effort all around. Look out world, Matthew is a force to be reckoned with, and, boy, he just does what he wants.