I had a “hold me closer, Tony Danza,” moment when I first heard the hyper-localized anthem “High Priest of the Mission,” on Mark Matos and Os Beaches’ 2009 Porto Franco release Words of the Knife. I thought Matos sang “the high priest of omission,” then I suspected that maybe he was singing “the high priest of submission,” which gave the song an entirely different slant.
Either way, the rollicking tempo of the organ and solid, driving rhythm section infuse Matos' tongue-in-cheek ode to a hipster-haven with very unhip earnestness. The album's next track, “The Moving,” a downbeat duet with fellow Porto Franco compatriot Kacey Johansing, plays out like a classic Camper Van Beethoven composition minus the signature strings. The down-home, plaintive tone of Matos’ voice eerily conjures Dave Lowery’s isolated Santa Cruz croon, as does the subtle poetry of the lyric: “You never said you were unhappy/You never said you’d rather be/somewhere in Montana….I just kind of felt you/moving away from me.”
The psychedelic swirl of “The Warrior and the Thief” creeps up like a tab of orange sunshine, mellifluous layers of cello, guitar, and a Hammond B3 following the “rise rise rise” of the warrior’s path, and the slow, meandering line of the end of the road. Words of the Knife's final track, the tumbleweed-lonely “I Come Broken,” manages to tie together all the songs' themes, referencing the brown eyes of “High Priest,” the seashore of “The Moving,” and the self-reliance of “The Warrior and the Thief”. When Matos sings “I’m broken but I’m free,” he sounds like he means it.
MARK MATOS AND OS BEACHES: MISSION CREEK MUSIC FESTIVAL OPENING NIGHT
with Rykarda Parasol, Kevin Junior, Dolly Rocker Movement
Wed/14, 9:30 p.m., $12-14
Café Du Nord
2174 Market, SF