MUSIC REVIEW: Lets get back to Queer representation In the Arts

Ray A-J July 7, 2018

Matt Fishel celebrates the queer comunity and reminds us to continue the fight, in his latest album M/F.

REPRESENTATION is everything. From films and TV, to magazine covers and Artwork, we love to see the faces of people from our communities in widespread media. The idea of looking into the mainstream and seeing someone like us reflected makes us feel accepted. It’s important.

Historically, the world of the arts has been a safe haven for the LGBTQIA+ community. With artists and musicians such as David Hockney, Anie Leibovitz, Andy Warhol, Elton John, and Tracy Chapman, we have used the creative world as a place to express ourselves freely; it’s an escape from a society of judgement and restriction. But for queer rock singer Matt Fishel, this idea of acceptance in the music industry was far from reach.

In his early days as a singer, songwriter, and all round artist, Matt’s bold and proudly gay music was held back from release. He was advised to change his themes, in the hopes of being more commercially acceptable. And why? Because of its gay content. Thank goodness the queer rocker refused, instead opting to create his own label in 2010, a string of popular queer tracks, and release his latest unappoligetic album M/F today.

Image created by Ray A-J

The whole album travels through the hope, cheer, worries and life of a gay man, but with roaring rock guitars and crunchy distortion to add a jaunty flare to the poignant topics.

In songs like His n’ His, the London based musician uses cheeky sarcasm to waltz through the joys of being in a relationship with a man. Soldered to jumping rock rhythms, and twanging solos that seem to don an 80s hair metal guitar tone, the song carries a sense of pride. His mix of faced paced, catchy commercial hooks fill each note from Matt’s bright vocals with elation and an overall resounding joy. But throughout M/F, the sense of cheer and euphoria is thinly masking a more serious underlying tone.

The alumni of Paul McCartney‘s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts casts head bobbing rhythms against bleak lyricism in tracks like Twinks, asking: “what you gonna do for love, if you don’t know who you are?” The track greatly juxtaposes its predecessor His N’ His, instead grappling with the fear of growing old and no longer belong to the Twink ideal. Despite the track’s dark and all too real outlook, a charging guitar and racing drums combo slashes through the despair, instead offering a gleeful sounding alternative. The glee continues in cheeky track Throwing shade, which shakes the spotlight onto an idea of forgetting the bad things and instead following the free world of Drag Queens. A bright sunny day against the melancholy of the dark night of before, the track flips the more serious lyricism found in Twinks on its head, this time choosing a more stripped back acoustic tone to decorate the lighter lyrics. Throughout notes of relaxed guitar and casual drums, Matt’s delicate voice encourages the listener to move on from constant complaining, and to instead relax and celebrate or “let our hair down for a while,” like the Drag Queens.
In amongst the bubbly and playful collage of tracks Throwing Shade, Bored of straight boys, and I’m obsessed with him, Matt nestles in an empowering and politically rich track known as Soldiers.

Strangling guitars that reek of pop punk tones pour into the track, swiftly followed by droplets of saddened vocals. “Who are we to stop the war, act complacent, when there’s still so much more to be done,” the straining voice demands, rippling through the jangling electricity. Sparking guitar notes spit out until a bright fire is formed – the chorus. Matt’s voice is crying out amongst cutting solos and crashing chords. “Though it seems like we’re all living in easier times, there are still soldiers out on the front lines,” the voce final concludes, giving a almighty push of power, and reminding us that the fight for our rights is never over.

It’s not long before another pop punk style rhythm brings in a celebratory rock party of a song like LGBTQIA+ (a new generation). Raw and empowering, the punky track is the ode to past and present LGBT+ alumni “In every creed, race, religion and society” all in a lively thrash of head bobbing rhythms. Angsty, rebellious, powerful. A nod to the original rebels with its rocky sound, the fast-paced charge of pop punk rhythms drives the listener’s passion until you can’t help but sing along.

Each power chord roars like a fire, emblazoned with gritty electrical fuzz to burn your ears in the best way. Arguably the best section of this collage of crashing rhythm, the chorus is a straightforward clean-cut onslaught urging you to “Raise your glass to the ones that paved the way”. It unashamedly demands your attention – it’s yelling at you and you can’t ignore so you yell along to.

But the hidden gem amongst this moving display of pride seems to be the artwork that is splashed across each part of the album’s companion lyric book. Sewn into the cover of M/F, and the subsequent inside pages, is minimalistic imagery of a man – his identity concealed but ironically the rest of him exposed, intimately depicting grief, happiness, and the stories told by the lyrics. Whether the subject be donning a bright pink tutu for the song Throwing shade, showcasing the intricate tribal tattoos found in I’m totally obsessed with him, or displaying a collage of behind the scene shots from the recording process, the images are perfectly entwined with the lyrics and songs that lay beside them. Every detail has been painstakingly thought out, right down to the pink and blue colour palette found across each page.

The final photograph perfectly resolves the story of Matt’s music, showcasing a festival of sorts, with the gathering of paint, cheering people, and the thematic pink and blues that are littered across the book – an image of freedom and success.

Overall M/F perfectly showcases the fight for rights and representation we need in the media and music industry. And it helps that the songs themselves contain the same electrical charge and enthusiastic power that Matt encompasses.