Alternative rocker Matthew Good insists he isn’t down on Vancouver, even though his song The Vancouver National Anthem contains references to homeless vagrants and “needle strewn fields.”
The musician, who lived in Vancouver for 15 years before moving to Maple Ridge, B.C., claims he merely uses the city as a backdrop to his latest album, which is named for British Columbia’s densely populated seaside metropolis.
If his Anthem is somewhat negative, Good insists he was just stating a socio-economic reality and “by no means an opinion.”
But it never takes long for contentious viewpoints to surface from the alternative rocker and social activist, who performs on Monday, Nov. 16, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre.
“This city has kind of lost its soul through progress. It’s become this mythological city of glass towers,” says Good, who misses the neighbourhood feel Vancouver once had.
While he likes the city’s forests and green spaces, he’s none too happy with the travel bans in downtown Vancouver during the 2010 Olympic Games (“I see absolutely zero benefit from the Olympics . . . it’ll put this province billions of dollars in debt”).
He’s also mentions the city’s dwindling live music scene, and is contemptuous of its treatment of the homeless.
Good says Vancouver police are wanting to throw vagrants in jail for living outdoors during inclement weather. “I’d be more worried about the yahoos that come out of the Granville mall all pissed.”
The singer/songwriter has no time for people who think indigent people would solve their problems by getting a job. “It’s not that simple.”
Good maintains childhood sexual or physical abuse “are things that, unless you can apply a relevant amount of humanity to them,” cannot be readily understood by those with regular upbringings.
Other homeless people he’s spoken to are mentally ill. “They were taken out of care and relocated to slum hotels and set up to be preyed upon,” says the singer, who has bipolar disorder and cares deeply about these issues.
When he learns the Alberta government intends to shut down Alberta Hospital in Edmonton and relocate its mentally ill clients into the community, Good says, “Alberta, of any Canadian province, suffers the most from Americanism.”
It’s not that mental institutions are a catch-all solution, he quickly adds — he just hopes enough dollars will be provided to properly look after each mentally ill person in whatever way best suits their needs.
While Good admits the Canadian health-care system was there when he needed it, he believes it would work better for everyone if Canadians just accepted that good, universal health care has a cost in tax dollars. He believes the French have their heads around this concept and have the best health system in the world.
When it’s finally time for the political activist to put on his songwriter’s hat, it seems Good would rather talk about issues than provide details about a lot of the music on his Vancouver album.
“I use a lot of metaphors,” he says vaguely — such as the theme of extinction in the song Great Whales of the Sea to reference things like Vancouver’s live music scene — which seems to be dying, although Good can’t say why.
He wrote the song Volcanoes with a tip of the hat to British novelist Malcolm Lowry, who wrote Under the Volcano, about self-destructive relationships.
As for Empty’s Theme Park, Good would only say the song is personal. “It’s about my past. It’s ambiguous. It sketches growing up here. . . .
“For me every record represents a period of time in my career. I conceptualize all my work.”
It’s obvious then that his album, Vancouver, says goodbye to his apartment-living lifestyle in Vancouver.
Good, who now has a live-in partner and a stepdaughter, says he recently moved to a house in Maple Ridge because it’s more conducive to family life.
Who: Alternative rocker Matthew Good, with opening band Mother Mother
When: 8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 16
Where: Memorial Centre, Red Deer
Tickets: $43.80 from Black Knight Ticket Centre