‘Making Mirrors’ is the third studio album from Belgian/Australian singer, songwriter and multi instrumentalist Gotye.
Like most people Gotye came to my attention with the track “Somebody I used to know” which was one of the biggest hits of the last decade reaching the number one spot in multiple countries including the UK where it remained for many weeks and is in the top 50 of the UK all time chart.
Whilst Gotye will always be considered as a one hit wonder the fact is off the back of that song he released a very interesting album with some compelling instrumentation and eclectic mix of genres.
Gotye doesn’t have a particular powerful or soulful vocal. This hinders him on some of the tracks where this is required and I feel there is a but of a soul man in there somewhere which he tries to display but ultimately sounds weak.
After the intro we go straight into the rock sounding “Easy Way Out”. This is a great opener but doesn’t set the tone for the album and you will find nothing on the album quite like this track which sadly only goes on for 1:58. In fact the song ends quite abruptly. It’s got a heavy guitar in the background with Gotye’s distorted vocals matching well.
“Somebody I used to know” is next and this track features New Zealand singer Kimbra.
In all my years of listening to pop music this song is probably the biggest anomaly of them all. This song should have never been a hit – it doesn’t conform in anyway to the pop music guidelines. It’s not a song you can dance to, its not a song you can really sing without being aware of what you are actually singing and all in all it is quite a depressing and bitter track.
But it’s so devilishly clever. The accompanying video was very smart and the inclusion of the verse from Kimbra adds a completely new dimension to the track.
“Somebody I used to know” sees our protagonist reflect on his relationship with this girl who he has now ceased seeing. Gotye explains that the relationship was difficult, it needed to end and he was actually glad that it was over. But despite this is his bitter over the fact that this girl no longer speaks to him and had moved on with her life.
The protagonist then issues a bit of an attack on the girl by questioning why she stooped so low in getting her friends to collect her stuff and changing her number. But then he admits and he wouldn’t need her number anyway as she is someone that he used to know.
What I love about the song is the verse from Kimbra. What is shows that Gotye is trying to be a bit of a martyr in this situation and is perhaps a little deluded into what actually went on in the relationship. She states that she didn’t want to live that way and he was quite happy to end the relationship and said that he wouldn’t get hung up like he is now doing.
The song is a two sides of the story argument which we have seen in music before but the way Gotye comes across you feel sorry for him but then angry at the same time. Kimbra’s backing vocals where she is simply saying “Ahhhh” is brilliantly done because one moment he does it softly as if she is sorry for the pain he is feeling but then she gets more aggressive which is clearly her anger at his lack of understanding.
“Somebody I used to know” is a fascinating song and whilst Gotye may only ever be remembered for this track, what a song to be remembered for.
“Eyes Wide Open” is a more upbeat track driven by pacy and echoy drums with a steel guitar whining in the background.
The track is about a dystopian future where our protagonist is reflecting from that future and looking back at the mistakes that had been made when they could have been prevented.
“We walk the plank, with our eyes wide open”
“Smoke And Mirrors” is a strange track and one I can’t seem to take to. The tone is dour and musically when the synth horns kick in during the chorus just makes it all sound a little messy. The song appears to be about people living their lives in a fraudulent manner and the tendencies we have for being fake because the rewards of this always seem greater.
“I Feel Better” is a bit of a oddity on ‘Making Mirrors’. The song is unashamedly Motown influenced in it’s structure and instrumentation. The big problem is the vocal from Gotye who just sounds as if he is really struggling. The song is about positivty and could be construed as a Gospel song given that the lyrics could apply to God although I think Gotye is talking about an actual person. After around the two minute mark the vocal has become a little piercing but it does make me wonder what would have happened if say Cee Lo Green had sung this track.
The soul drenched feel continues on “In Your Light”. It sounds like a song you have heard before but can’t quite place it especially the horns that can be heard in the first minute of the song. The hand clapping and guitar playing which are underneath the vocal give it a real happy and positive feel. This is the most upbeat and positive song on the album and a real feel good track.
“State Of The Art” is insanely captivating. The tune is essentially a reggae tune and the voice you hear from Gotye has been filtered so much that it just sounds like a computer voice which is unrecognizable.
This song is about an instrument called the Cotillion which is an electric organ with many pre sets which allow for an orchestral sound. The track explains how this family have purchased one and the song is basically describing what it can do.
Musically the song is one of the most richest that this album has to offer. It is so different to anything else you will hear on “Making Mirrors” or anything you have probably heard before. It a track from a instrumentation point of view I absolutely love.
“Don’t Worry, We’ll be watching you” is a great title but sadly it’s an appallingly boring song. These types of tracks are put on albums as filler and I challenge anyone to find anything interesting or in the least bit redeeming about this song.
“Give Me A Chance” fares a little better and is simple in it’s lyrical subject which is about the protagonist asking to be given another chance as he is aware that he is let the person he was with down and accepts the blame for his mistakes. Musically it is also uncomplicated with some use of keyboards sounding very similar to those on the track from 1999 by British group Jamiorquai called “Destitute Illusions”.
I feel this is a prelude to the following track which is probably one of the strongest on the set.
“Save Me” is a beautiful song. It is my favourite song on “Making Mirrors”. The use of the piano and simply drum programming gives this song an atmosphere of mellowness and a reflective tone.
Gotye uses his voice to great effect on a song which is at times hauntingly beautiful in it’s lyric.
The song is about someone who has relied on another person to help them out of depression.
And I could not love
Coz I could not love myself
Never good enough, no
That was all I’d tell myself
And I was not well
But I could not help myself
I was giving up on living
The final track on the album is “Bronte”. This song is about losing an animal – in this case a dog although this is not specific to the lyric.
I currently have a Cat who is dying so the lyrics of this song certainly hit home. I wouldn’t recommend you listen to the lyrics if you have lost an animal and emotions are still raw. In fact I need to turn it off now…
Since the day we found you
You have been our friend
And your voice still echoes in the hallways of this house
It’s the end
“Making Mirrors” is a diverse album with rich instrumentation, unique production and some reflective lyrics. Whilst the main criticism is that it doesn’t really flow the album still has a theme of love, relationship, and dealing with loss coursing through it’s veins.
Bitterness, resentment, joy, love, sadness and regret are all on display here and it seems a shame to me that all Gotye will be remembered for by the masses is “Somebody I Used to know” because there was more in his locker than just that track, regardless of how fascinating that song is.