A MATTER OF TIME
I remember reading a review in the Orange County Register some time in 1993 the week Syn’s “A Matter of Time” was released. I was intrigued both by the name of the artist (a person not a band) as well as the reviewer and interviewer’s discussion of the struggles that artist faced when his faith conflicted with his his art.
Of course I could only do one thing: buy the darn album!
Despite never being able to talk to anyone about the album since no one I knew ever owned it, it has remained a long time favorite and has withstood the test of time musically than many releases from that same time period. To list comparisons always prove to be unfair and futile, but for a point of reference you can think Michael Hutchins (INXS), Joe Cocker, The Wallflowers and Adam Again. Pounding rhythms and groove driven rock and soul with more than touch of Terence Trent D’Arby, Lenny Kravitz and Adam Duritz.
Emotional, raw and provocative. For those who are squeamish regarding flowery language there is an expletive or two but they seem to fit the artist and the message. I have long past dismissed the issue of language in music and will not reintroduce the debate here. Plus, DW Dunphy says swearing in songs is cool!
“Love on My Side” starts the album with a cool, light bluesy riff and soulful vocals reminiscent of Trent D’ Arby with a sore throat, a soulful growl aged in a bottle of gin and spilling out into the speakers. This song oozes with a subtle raw emotion that builds slowly. In an odd way the song is both glossy and raw and works with the message of faith and redemption.
I spent years in the darkness
Alone and a afraid
I needed help, couldn’t bring myself to pray
And from the depths of despair
I looked up and saw the light
I knew right then it was time to give it a fight S
o I joined in the fight
I got love, I got love on my side
And a a deeper understanding
Of who I am And I believe, that love knows my name
And with a deeper understanding
Baby I’m a better man
Great gospel tinged backing vocals complete the revival theme as the song crescendos to finish.
“Bleed” is heavier and with a riff comparable to INXS meets Pearl Jam, Syn’s soul is poured out like the blood he sings of. This song is musically the heaviest on the album and has a blues guitar solo that steals the show. The song, like the whole album, matches brutally honest lyrics with a vulnerable and passionate vocal performance.
So, this is what it feels like to be lost in the blues
Beaten and frustrated, second hand used
Up to me ears in all these rules and regulations
Promises from liars, preachin soul salvation
I’ve had enough, of people tellin’ me what to do
I’m gonna stand up, gonna get it out, get it out
When the going gets tough, I’m tough enough to see it through
I’ll never give up, Said I’ll never give up, never give up
The wah-wah guitar just rips through as a killed Hammond organ keeps things melodic and constant. But here again it’s Syn’s vocals and the pain expressed that makes the song believable. At time Hendryx is brought to mind, not for the guitar but the vocals that influenced the likes of Kravitz, Duritz and obviously Syn.
The first ballad on the album is “Suicide” that immediately reminds me of some of Michael Anderson’s best songs, but sound a little more like Van Morrison here than anywhere else on the album. The slurred vocals takes a higher register and is subtly accompanied by drums, organ and acoustic guitar.
“Hey John” is a tribute to John Lennon and remembers the Beatles death and even contains some Beatles references. Though not the strongest song musically, nor the most memorable, it does contain some of Syn’s better lyrical touches with references to Strawberry Fields, etc interlaced throughout.
The other ballad is the beautiful “Please Be There,” the only direct “love song” on the album. Accompanied only by the acoustic guitar Syn vocals strain with a longing and emotional touch that is absent from the rest of the album and fits the message perfectly.
The title track closes the album and is closer to “Bleed” than anything else on the album, The song starts slow with just acoustic guitar but does not stay there. As the song build and progresses so does Syn’s performance. Chris Cornell inspired vocals drives home this six minute closer. The song is one of lost and regret that summarizes the pain, frustration and longing that weaves throughout the entire project.
Syn’s “A Matter of Time” epitomizes the definition of an album you should own but probably don’t. For those interested in getting a glimpse of the album please check the “comment.”