When Matt Maltese’s video for “Greatest Comedian” arrived in my inbox last week – as these things sometimes do – I found myself pressing play and immediately coming face to face with a person in a shiny pink flared suit, slowly gyrating on a carpeted paisley staircase. “You’re the beauty, the stranger in the grocery store / you're the highest quality hardwood door,” he sings in a deep, baritone drawl. By the time the chorus kicks in, his voice has risen to a tremble and he’s pointing, thrusting his hips, staring at the camera and edging down each step. Who the hell is this? I thought, before rewinding and watching again, and again, and again. Has Morrissey died and come back to life as a 22-year-old singer from south London? Am I maybe obsessed?
The video, directed by Jak Payne, who has also directed all the visuals for Insecure Men and apparently used to be in Fat White Family, is extremely magnetic – and not just because of Matt Maltese’s dancing. It’s filmed in a huge house – full of 70s decor and tinged with the light of the golden hour – and follows a family who look incredible but don’t seem to pay any attention to each other. The track itself is hard to describe, but it feels whimsical, romantic, addictive, Maltese's surreal lyricism flying above slow beats and hooky bass lines, like something Jarvis Cocker might have written as a teen today if he’d spent more time at The Windmill pub in Brixton and was in a better mood. We're also premiering it today, below, so you can watch and see for yourself.
“I was having a drink in Kensal Rise when I met this couple who aren’t a couple called Greg and Elisabeth,” Matt tells me over the phone, when I give him a ring to find out more information. “The house is actually Elisabeth’s and she let us film the video in there. We included both of them in the video as well. It’s the only house on that street that hasn’t been converted to flats or whatever, so it’s pretty incredible.” And as for the pink suit? “I found that at a vintage shop in Brixton. I’ve got a real obsession with suits. I want to wear them all the time. I like the routine of them, you don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing, you can just put a suit on. It’s a bit Elton, but not too Elton.”
This might be the first I’ve ever heard of Matt Maltese, but it is by no means the first time he’s put out music. He starting writing at the age of 14, but didn’t create anything “listenable” until around 19, when he released his first few tracks. That early stuff wasn’t as playful as “Greatest Comedian” – it was far more earnest and piano-driven, with ballads like “Even If It’s a Lie” weaving tales of romance and heartbreak. But though his style may have deviated in recent years, he’s always been a keen lyricist. “When I was younger my obsession was Leonard Cohen, and also Joni Mitchell,” he says now. “But I also read a lot as a kid, so from the age of 13 I was often listening to the lyrics more than the music I think. Over the years, I guess that’s balanced out.” What about Morrissey? Has anyone ever pointed out how similar their voices can sound? Or is that just me? “Ha! Yeah, I get that on YouTube a lot,” he says, adding, “I’m a big fan of his work”.
Anyway, if you’re into this track and video, my dude is releasing a debut album sometime in June, although he doesn’t have much more info other than it's produced by Jonathan Rado (Lemon Twigs, Whitney, Father John Misty, Weyes Blood), it will be different to what he’s made before and he feels proud of how it's all come together. “I feel really satisfied that I haven’t held back or compromised on anything…” he tells me, before pausing for a moment, as if gathering his thoughts, “But that’s equally met with a great deal of anxiety. Will anyone give a shit or like it? Who knows. But I do feel privileged to have worked with a producer that I adore, and to have put the songs on it that I want to put on it. So I feel happy with it – even if it does all go to shit." Everything has the propensity to go to shit, but if the rest of the record is as weird and wonderful and “Greatest Comedian”, Matt will be more than fine.
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Matt Maltese is headlining London's SCALA on 6 June. You can get tickets here.