Friday, July 8, 2011

10,000 Maniacs - "What's the Matter Here?"

What's the Matter Here - In My Tribe

(Debuted September 3, 1988, Peaked #80, 8 Weeks on the Chart)

At the time "What's the Matter Here?" was unleashed on college radio (where it was really popular) and on MTV, 10,000 Maniacs was still a virtually unknown band from Upstate New York. However, their record company was priming them for a larger-scale audience, bringing in Peter Asher to produce their 1987 LP In My Tribe. The album had four singles, with two reaching the Hot 100.

In an era where "message" songs managed to get some press and publicity, it was noted that "What's the Matter Here?" was tackling the subject of child abuse. That's never a happy subject, and the band did performed in a straightforward manner, without any dramatics or hysteria. However, what was often overlooked in the lyrics is that the narrator is struggling with whether to say anything about it ("But I don't dare say..."), which gives the song some of its realism, since few really want to be seen as sticking their nose in other people's business.

Written by band members Natalie Merchant and Rob Buck, "What's the Matter Here" stalled at #80. Perhaps it wasn't time for the band yet in the same era as George Michael and Whitney Houston...perhaps it was too soon after Suzanne Vega actually had a hit -- no pun intended -- with the subject the previous year in her song "Luka." It would be more than five years before 10,000 Maniacs would eventually reach the Top 40.

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