(Warner Music Canada)
Seamus Hamilton-Pattison January 18, 2016
Prior to Chaotic Neutral, Good’s most recent albums – the excellent Lights of Endangered Species and Arrows of Desire – occupied polar opposites of his musical spectrum. Lights was melancholy and orchestral, while Arrows was a collection of Pixies-inspired, guitar-driven indie rock.
On Chaotic Neutral, it seems Good has attempted to synthesize these two approaches into one cohesive record. Stylistically, the result is an album that allows just as much space for melancholy piano as overdriven guitars.
The album’s lead single, “All You Sons and Daughters” kicks things off in fine fashion with an ominous, bombastic intro that soon gives way to the mid-paced, melodic verses and chorus. Good himself shines particularly bright in the vocal department here, carrying the verses, and confidently sustaining higher notes like he hasn’t in years.
“Moment” and “Kid Down the Well” are a pair of acoustic guitar and piano-based songs with a folky, Coldplay-adjacent vibe. Unfortunately, these are two of the album’s weakest cuts. It’s not that they’re poorly executed, they just lack the dynamic variety and lyrical intensity present throughout the rest of Chaotic Neutral and as such, fall rather flat.
Chaotic Neutral picks back up in a big way with “Harridan,” the strongest song by far. It’s carried by a menacing, low piano melody, as Good makes great use of his natural, chilling vibrato throughout. “Harridan” culminates in an explosive outro, epic in proportion to The Who’s “Baba O’ Riley,” which features dueling violin and guitar leads.
Other highlights from Chaotic Neutral include “Girls in Black” – which features an abstract, rapid-fire rant from Good in its bridge – and the ambitious Kate Bush cover, “Cloudbusting.” Good sings the latter track as a sublime duet with Manitoba-born singer Holly McNarland, creating a worthy interpretation of a criminally under-recognized song.
Chaotic Neutral is a worthy, if slightly inconsistent addition to Good’s broad catalog. Good’s productivity itself, however, is nothing if not consistent – one can only hope we’ll see another album of similar or greater quality in the next couple years.