“My First Love Mends My Final Days” – Mathew Lee Cothran Review by Gav McIsaac
Only seven months after releasing the devastatingly gorgeous “Loss Memory” under the now-retired Coma Cinema moniker, Mathew Lee Cothran is back with a new album titled “My First Love Mends My Final Days.” Clocking in at an ephemeral twenty-one minutes, this record is filled to the brim with the familiar warmth and attention to heartbreaking detail one has come to expect from a Cothran release.
The first track “Naomi Y” opens with programmed drums and layers of synth melodies (possibly from what looks like a Casio keyboard gracing the album cover) that cascade over sustained and verbed out chords. This soundscape wouldn’t be out of place playing out of the loudspeakers in a suburban mall circa the mid-eighties (or at least in one of those popular YouTube videos seeking to emulate that very specific, and yet hard-to-define ennui.) Washed out nostalgia graces the lyrics here too, “endlessly days carry on/ you begin and end them all alone/secret wounds breathing deep”. Like many of Cothran’s songs, this one is dark and dotted with blurred-out pain, but at the same time carries an undeniably hypnotic and propulsive energy. The song ends with Cothran and Indigo de Souza meditatively singing “why Naomi why?” in a tone almost too gentle to be melancholic, before those tumbling synths and drums play us off.
Organic instrumentation first appears in the third track “Ain’t Going Nowhere” – acoustic guitar strums, brushed drums, and electric bass intertwine with Cothran’s voice, blanketed in a gentle chorus or flanger effect. The song takes on a mystic, quietly desperate quality with Cothran imploring, perhaps, to the universe or to a divinity, someone thought to hold the same power, “why did you tell me there was an answer for my mysteries? they ain’t going nowhere.” In the final half a distorted guitar breaks through the ambience, like a damn revelation, filling the void with noise and dirt. It’s highly cathartic and mesmerizing, similar in effect as Funkadelic’s renowned Maggot Brain solo – emotional and pleading and somehow both restrained and chaotic all at once.
Cothran dives into alcohol-fuelled reflection and small town malaise in the following track “Sports Bar”. The percussion that hits my ear invokes an ice cube falling into a drink playing over mellow acoustic noodling. Cothran’s voice is quiet and subdued, ending every verse with the line “bury me at the sports bar.” Piano picks up where his voice trails off, ending the song soon after it begins. Cothran has mastered the art of the sub-three minute song – crafting a world both tender and haunting in such a short time frame.
We end with “First Love,” bearing the namesake of the album in its first line. The lyrics sways from the good and the ugly, and back again – “I remember that kiss/the decay in your spit” The song ends in soft redemption, “I tore through my own skin/only to see it mend.” The last line gets repeated over and over, a mantra of healing and the resilience (no matter how unwilling) of the human body and spirit. This juxtaposition of pain and healing is one that Cothran does like no other, and “My First Love Mends My Final Days” is sure to mend the end of many days to come.
Gav McIsaac is a rising junior at Brandeis University pursuing a major in Psychology and a minor in Anthropology. He got involved with WBRS his first semester at Brandeis as a DJ and is a co-founder of the WBRS: Student Music Committee, which is responsible for putting on the popular “Stein Night” open-mic shows for student musicians as well as monthly jam sessions. He also helps run recording sessions at the newly remodelled WBRS recording studio.