Matt Maltese Meets You at Your Most Vulnerable on 'Driving Just to Drive' [Album Review]

Kieran Kohorst
Susannah Garrard

“I don’t wanna make a big scene,” UK singer-songwriter Matt Maltese begins his 4th album, Driving Just To Drive. And he stays true to his intentions on the track, attempting to downplay the loss of a loved one in an effort to console the one who will miss them the most: his mother. Unintentionally, by sticking to the truths of the situation, Maltese has stripped the circumstance down to its most raw reality, one that is the most fundamentally painful. The theme of surface-level pain permeating to the most inner dimensions of the soul radiates through the album as Maltese wallows in the ordinary, celebrates the hurt of the past, and looks for the irony in it all. He’s astoundingly romantic in his heartbreak, to the point that when he sings “I’m a coward when it comes to you” on Biig Piig-assisted “Coward,” it is delivered as the most affectionate compliment on the album. Worn beyond his years, the 27-year-old is an open book on Driving Just To Drive, writing the pages himself with a somber attitude but an unrelenting spirit.

For as cohesive and collective as Driving Just To Drive is as a complete listen, each track holds its own identity. The optimistic piano of “Florence” arrests the listener when paired with the imagery of his lyrics; “I know heaven’s here tonight,” he repeats, with a clear-eyed belief that is nothing less than inspiring. “Mortician” is a glass-half-full outlook soundtracked by the most upbeat instrumental of the album. Single “Museum” is a tour of a haunting past and a future that’s hanging in the balance, complete with “the school that you joined at five” and “T-shirts worn by your first love”, ending with horns that seem celebratory but in support of what, we aren’t sure. Title track “Driving Just To Drive” cuts deep with the point of Maltese’s pen, a cloud-covered record of melancholy personified. The punch to the gut that is “Hello Black Dog” is an ode to the unwelcome visitor that is always accepted back with much anguish. Maltese goes daydreaming on “Suspend your Disbelief” only briefly before heading back into the deep end on “But leaving is”, still finding some encouragement in his hard-learned truths: “Love isn’t a choice,” he sings on the closing track, “it deafens and blinds you,” before going on to reveal that “Love isn’t a choice / But leaving is.” The album ends on a sour note, but one reflective of the LP as a whole. 

Driving Just To Drive carries itself as Maltese’s 4th album in its composure and efficiency. It’s a quick but emotionally-exhaustive 37 minutes, demanding a lot of its listener but rewarding at every turn. Maltese pokes and prods at your past; whether they be long-healed scars or freshly-earned flesh wounds, it stings just the same. Nowhere is he more evocative than in his live performances, in this case available through Maltese’s Live At The Dealership recording of selected songs from the album. Furthermore, he will begin a headlining tour in the month of May beginning in Legacy, Taipei and ending in Montreal, QC. Emotionally damaging in the best way imaginable, Driving Just To Drive is a measured record with harmless intent. Caught in the right moment, it will soundtrack your most intimate memories. Not for the faint of heart, Maltese meets you where you are and gives you a shoulder to lean on: he’s been there before, and if a mortician can see the light in the darkness, then you sure can as well.

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