Mat Cothran is the one man band behind Coma Cinema, and he has a lot on his mind. Most of it is pretty depressing, and that’s OK, because he expresses said depression in an emotionally charged array of evocative, if sometimes obscure, lyrics. “Self-esteem makes little sense/limited and malcontent…” from the title track “Blue Suicide,” is one I liked. However, depression as theme can wear a bit thin after a while, and I would’ve appreciated a little more exposition in his lyrics, which are at times muddied by the overlay of vocal and instrumental tracks.
Listening to Cothran made me think about Owen Ashworth, the one man band behind Casio Tone for the Painfully Alone. They have similar deliveries, with their limited vocal ranges, a similarity I heard particularly strongly in Cothran’s “Tour All Winter.” The big difference between Ashworth and Cothran is that Ashworth’s songs are always driven by the momentum of his prowess on the synsthesizer, and although ubiquitously depressing, Ashworth’s songs tell you exactly why they’re depressing. He paints a picture, a scenario, with identifiable characters in identifiable situations (check out “New Year’s Kiss”).
That’s not to say obscure lyrics are always bad. Cothran’s are molten, with an anguished sense of loss or yearning. After all, I usually can’t understand what Nick Drake and Elliott Smith are talking about but I can listen to them endlessly. The difference between Smith, Drake and Ashworth versus Cothran is the former are all stellar musicians. Cothran plays nothing particularly well. Case in point, the mediocre drumming throughout the album started to make me a little woozy.
Cothran’s influences melodically range from Smashing Pumpkins in “Lindsey,” to The Beatles in “Crystal Ball Broken” and a number of other songs. He has an ear for ambient effects and puts his technical abilities to good use, especially on the intro to “Wondering.” The fact that he doesn’t waste the first few bars to establish melody on most of these tracks, and instead jumps right into the lyric, demonstrates the level of maturity he’s achieved over three albums and a number of other releases.