I'll be honest; my expectations of this album changed rapidly from idly choosing it amongst a list of reviews that needed a home to the moment when I first saw the tracklisting. I initially had an image in my head much informed by the few tracks I had heard from The Fiery Furnaces. I had liked them but was by no means initiated and expected something fairly incongruous but lightweight. What glared malevolently from the computer screen instead looked something like this:

  • 01. Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever I. The Neighbors
  • 02. Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever II. "Fleeing Plus Pursuing"
  • 03. Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever III. "Tell me What it is You Want, Boys"
  • 04. Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever IV. "You're Getting Yourself Worked Up"
  • 05. Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever V. "Same Every Night"
  • 06. Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever VI. "Wondering What, Exactly?"
  • 07. Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever VII. Drifting Down the Alleys
  • 08. Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever VIII. Frustration by the Boulevards
  • 09. Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever IX. "Pursuit, Less Acute"
  • 10. Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever X. "I'm Sure It's… For the Best"
  • 11. Ladies-in-Waiting – Waiting Forever XI. "But at the Door – Is it Him?"
  • 12. Brand-New Mothers – Trying it Out I. Matricidal Sons of Bitches
  • 13. Brand-New Mothers – Trying it Out II. Over Again
  • 14. Brand-New Mothers – Trying it Out III."Can I Tell you Something?"
  • 15. Brand-New Mothers – Trying it Out IV. Making the Preparations
  • 16. Brand-New Mothers – Trying it Out V. Zeroing in Across the Crowded Bar
  • 17. Brand-New Mothers – Trying it Out VI. Completing the Activity
  • 18. Brand-New Mothers – Trying it Out VII. The Next Morning
  • 19. Brand-New Mothers – Trying it Out VIII. The Problem Becomes the Solution
  • 20. Brand-New Mothers – Trying it Out IX. Brand-New Mothers
  • 21. Brand-New Mothers – Trying it Out X. What? Again?
  • 22. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise I. "What will You Say?"
  • 23. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise II. "You Know what this Means, Don't You?"
  • 24. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise III. Disappointed Dads
  • 25. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise IV. "That's a Rendezvous and a Half!"
  • 26. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise V. Well, Make your Calculations Quick
  • 27. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise VI. Despite Yourself? Or to Spite Yourself?
  • 28. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise VII. As if in the Car with the Kids
  • 29. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise VIII. Paternal Prerogatives
  • 30. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise IX. What did You Do?
  • 31. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise X. Off You Go!
  • 32. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise XI. Back and Forth
  • 33. Expectant Fathers – In for a Surprise XII. It's no Surprise to Me
  • 34. Dying on the Sixth Side I. Early in the Morning and Late at Night
  • 35. Dying on the Sixth Side II. The View from the Top
  • 36. Dying on the Sixth Side III. Lying on the Sixth Side
  • 37. Dying on the Sixth Side IV. Dying on the Sixth Side
  • 38. Dying on the Sixth Side V. Popping the Cork
  • 39. Dying on the Sixth Side VI. Down to the Place
  • 40. Dying on the Sixth Side VII. Seeing Double, Thinking Twice
  • 41. Dying on the Sixth Side VIII. The Corpse Vanishes
  • 42. Dying on the Sixth Side IX. You're not Really Discouraged, Are You?
  • 43. Dying on the Sixth Side X. Done at the Place
  • 44. Dying on the Sixth Side XI. The View out the Basement Window
  • 45. Dying on the Sixth Side XII. Working at the Cemetery – Again

Besides the initial shock, I suddenly became more optimistic: "Ah! Interesting!" My poor naïve brain thought to itself. I hoped and expected a meaty concept with real highs and lows that would push me to my extremities. I anticipated researching the ideas behind it and was quickly encouraged by talk of a film soundtrack and Poverty Row, but my expectations soon dropped: Amongst Friedberger's meandering diatribe about creating a soundtrack for a nonexistent piece of film that didn't exist, and a horror movie that wasn't even scary, very little of this material provides us with any grounding or valuable context to helps us approach Matricidal Sons of Bitches. Perhaps the flippancy of Friedberger's words tells us more about the album in terms of how little there is to derive from it as the record proves to be a body of work that its listener can only really accept at face value.

The most digestible part of the LP is arguably the music itself: Beneath an apparent high concept and a sprawling track listing, the tracks are often light and palatable with orchestral flourishes. They are exquisitely arranged and utilise appropriate and interesting samples to create a suitably amorphous but distinctively filmic atmosphere: Tape strings wobble and a nice piano figure is never too far away throughout the whole record. It is however disappointing to never really hear the album let loose at all as it would contribute somewhere towards a satisfying pay off for the moody, slower tracks that largely populate this record, a little change of pace is never a bad thing. Analogue synths cut through some of the orchestral clutter here and there and at best and the combination sounds a little reminiscent of the Moog arranged pieces that make up the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange, but it lacks any real menace and the bite of said soundtrack to ever really quicken one's pulse. A little dissonance here and there would perhaps show that there is a bit of heart and human frailty lurking somewhere underneath this huge endeavour and Friedberger has every opportunity to throw us a real curveball, but instead he chooses to remain tepid, perhaps to represent continuity and a build in continuing the album's theme, but the result of this is mostly yawn inducing. Emotionally, this restricts Matricidal Sons of Bitches perpetually to a leisurely and almost defiant state of second gear, and yet with a whole canvas in front of him desperate to be painted, Friedberger seems to insist upon adding layer after layer of grey, refusing to explore the extremities. In fact, the most exciting part of Matricidal Sons of Bitches is the short track 'Popping the Cork', where a bottle is opened. As the sound effect cuts through the mix so clearly it sounds like it could come from anywhere but the album itself and I half hold out my hand, desperate for someone to put a drink in it.

While the album is very adept at establishing a potent and distinctive atmosphere, which would appear to be it's primary objective, it is simply too difficult to engage with the record on any kind of level merely as a listener. With visual accompaniment we may become more illuminated to Friedberger's vision, but it's almost as if he doesn't want to let us in, taunting us with a half-finished treasure map. There are very few soundtracks that spring to mind that can engage a listener as a single body of work and crucially, without the previous association of the accompanying film. Therefore, Matricidal Sons of Bitches will always struggle to overcome such a barrier considering there is… erm, no film to accompany it.

The album really struggles to stand up as a single body of work: Aside from a sampled wobbly choir that accompanies a bashing piano chord progression during the second movement, which becomes particularly grating very quickly, the instrumentals are cast adrift without any recognisable motifs or any kind of instrumental disparity to establish different themes or moods between each of the albums four 'movements', it renders the elaborate format as somewhat irrelevant and exposes much of the album as a mostly self-indulgent venture. Without developing four distinct movements and establishing some enduring motifs however, it's also particularly difficult to be engaged by a forty-five track, four-movement album that is so stubbornly repetitive, consistent and ultimately joyless.

It's difficult to be critical of a body of work that appears to be so elaborate and ambitious, and clearly has a definitive vision within Friedberger's own mind, but Matricidal Sons of Bitches sadly never overcomes the obstacle of being anything less than totally incomprehensible to its listener, and at worst shows itself to be totally self-indulgent. There is often the feeling when listening to a "difficult" record that there is something that hasn't quite fallen in to place the first few times around, a concept that hasn't quite revealed itself yet and requires some interpretation, whereas the issue that lies at the bottom of Matricidal Sons of Bitches is that the feeling is not there – it feels like there is nothing to get and the whole record never delves any further than skin deep. The emphasis on the "there's no film!" concept just seems fairly flimsy, perhaps even a red herring, and although there's a sense that Friedberger simply doesn't care if he engages any kind of audience, it's simply not enough to get this immense body of work off of the ground at all.