"When I talk to people about Dischord bands (which isn't a regular occurrence), or more specifically Dischord bands in the mid-80's, Gray Matter never seems to get mentioned. This is a shame as they are a great band, and this CD (a compilation of 1985's Food For Thought LP and 1986's Take It Back EP, plus a few bonus tracks) is amazing.
It really feels like two different discs in one. So I'll review Food For Thought, and Take It Back individually.
The songs from Food For Thought (1-10) are excellent. I find the songs incredibly catchy, and the lyrics easy to relate to. Lines like "I kind of hate your guys, but I wanna have friends, I wanna feel good even if you pretend", "never worried 'bout pretending, never worried 'bout offending", "I'm afraid of getting hurt, and of walking through the dirt" and "and if I cry and want attention, realize it's just pretension" rock my world. Central themes involve coffee, cigarettes, growing up, feeling bored, feeling sheltered, and so forth. Reading the lyrics, it may seem like they're complaining like modern emo bands do oh so well, but they're not. They're merely stating- like a little kid- how it is. They're honest lyrics about things people can relate to, but never come out and say (do you tell your friends you really don't like them, but because you're incredibly fucking bored you hang out with them?). Great catchy music from the DC hardcore scene, or post hardcore scene. Emotional post-hardcore? Emo perhaps? Fuck I hate labels.
After Food For Thought ends (with a Beatle's cover of "I am the Walrus"), the sound totally changes into a harder, less refined, distorted sound. Singing is replaced by spastic screaming or calmer singing (focused, angry, and reflective, like after you settle down from an outburst) and again the lyrics fucking rule. Some examples of lines here are "kill confusion by killing options, burning bridges to stay warm," or "and I don't want identity, all I wants consistency!". Golden. For people out there that love labelling music, this is... noise rock, or 80's alternative, or Rites of Spring-esque post hardcore. Although Gray Matter's (I don't know who sings what, the booklet mentions two vocalists) sound more like a little kid having a temper tantrum here, and less like Guy's "every word I say I say out of complete desperation as if I could fucking collapse at any second" scream.
It's an amazing CD. I like it better than Embrace's effort, and just as much as Rites of Spring's. Criticize my review all you want, just download some songs, and see for yourself."