Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Matthew Wilder - I Don't Speak the Language

This week (October 7th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of I Don’t Speak the Language, the debut album from American singer-songwriter Matthew Wilder. The record peaked at number 49 on the US Billboard Album chart.

The New York born Wilder was one half of a Greenwich Village folk duo called Matthew & Peter before moving to California in the late 70’s. There he worked as a backing vocalist for Rickie Lee Jones and Bette Midler before doing his own album.

First off, how cool looking is that album cover? Mannequin parts at a beach setting - very surreal and unique.

Side one begins with the hit single “Break My Stride”. With a mix of reggae and new wave, this song was big around the world; it reached number 32 in New Zealand, number 22 in Switzerland, number 14 in Sweden, number 8 in Austria, number5 in the Netherlands and on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 4 in South Africa, the UK and on the US Adult Contemporary chart, and number 1 in Norway. I absolutely love this song! The opening line is perfect and every time someone says those words “last night I had the strangest dream…” I immediately will respond “you sailed away to China, in a little rowboat to find ya?” (Yes, I am a dork.) The song reminds me of hanging out with my high school friends on college breaks, going out to dance and have a good time catching up.

“The Kid’s American”, the second single, went to number 33 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Wow, I had completely forgotten this song until doing this review. It has an amazing, high-energy beat and a smoking saxophone solo. I loved it too but I never picked it. I quickly rectified that error of my ways.

“I Don’t Speak the Language” takes us on an exotic journey to a tropical paradise where love is the universal form of communication.

Wilder gets some musical inspiration from 1960‘s soul for “Love Above the Ground Floor”. For me, the song has a Sam Cooke vibe to it at the beginning; and overall it swings with a cool groove.

Side two opens on the “World of the Rich and Famous”. The song, which cautions the behavior of the famous, features a funky R&B bass groove at the foundation. This one seems even more relevant today in the world of TMZ and paparazzi everywhere to record a celebrities every move.

Things slow down a bit with “Ladder of Lovers”, a tale of a woman who is searching from bed to bed for satisfaction and fulfillment.

“I Was There” bounces along on a steady, very danceable beat. In an impassioned voice, Wilder reminds his lady that he has always been there for her when she needs him.

I like how the piano and synthesizers blend on “Dreams Keep Bringing Me Back”.

The album closes with a short instrumental reprise of “I Don’t Speak the Language”.

On my very first listen of I Don’t Speak the Language, I was instantly a fan. Besides two solid hits, Matthew Wilder crafted a full set of spot on pop-rock tunes with plenty of variety. I did not waste a single moment downloading it for music library, and I predict it will become a new favorite of mine. It is definitely one of those lost treasures from 1983.

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