Patrick Bateman is a sick man. As the high powered business executive main character in the book and film treatments of “American Psycho”, he is bored by the soulless world around him. It’s this boredom that drives him to the fantasy of living a completely different life, where he can seek bloody revenge on the guy who has a nicer business card, or pick up random prostitutes and sexually and physically abuse them. At a couple different points in the movie, Bateman puts on some music and talks about the Huey Lewis and the News as well as Phil Collins. While the upbeat songs were intended as darkly comical contrast to the heinous acts that he was about to commit, one might suspect that in his private time Bateman might listen to some seriously fucked up shit. If the setting of “American Psycho” was the present instead of the 80s, Bateman would probably find some delight with Matthew Dear’s explicit and predatory new album “Black City”. It’s probably one of the nastiest, grimiest albums released in recent years, but it’s also coincidentally a great dance record that will get you moving even if you feel like you need a shower afterwards.
“Black City” is something of a radical departure for Matthew Dear. He’s been releasing music since about 2003, but until 2007’s “Asa Breed” he worked with a pretty standard electronica sound. On that last album, Dear finally made the decision to add vocals to the mix, and take his rather formless dance compositions in a much more direct, lighthearted pop direction. Maintaining that pop side but completely axing the lighthearted side of it, “Black City” is dark and brooding and best experienced in the most run-down and scariest areas of whatever large urban environment you live closest to. Despite this turn towards the seedy, the move is brilliant mostly thanks to the inventive way he puts these tracks together with rough edges and odd sound combinations. Of course many may not see it that way, and be completely turned off by these unconventional arrangements. This isn’t an easy album to get into, and there aren’t a lot of hooks to work their way into your head either. That Dear doesn’t have the most conventional or best singing voice also doesn’t help matters. The good news on that end is he’s smart enough to add layers and effects to his vocals so they never harm the song.
If you don’t like “Black City”, don’t feel bad. Unlike the balearic, Italo-house leanings of glo-fi/chillwave recently, Matthew Dear deals in more straightforward electro with his own unique twist. The hyper-sexuality and general sliminess of this record can be a sharp turnoff too, especially if you like high energy build-ups and breakdowns. There’s not much on here that moves out of the darkness and into the light, but as things move closer and closer to the inevitable finish there does seem to be a more upbeat tone that takes hold to suggest hope beyond the semen-soaked streets of Whoreville, USA. Sometimes you need to hit bottom before you can start climbing back to the top. In Matthew Dear’s case, diving headfirst into the gutter has been a revealing and exceptionally creative outlet for him, turning out his best record to date. Do yourself a favor and take that same leap with “Black City”. You may not take a shine to it at first, but just try to remember – it’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything. Or something deep like that.