Mathew Lee Cothran’s music helps me more than any love song

The rock musician’s catalog reflects how I make sense of life: family and death.

July 27, 2018
Mathew Lee Cothran’s music helps me more than any love song Listening to My First Love Mends My Final Days  

The first Mathew Lee Cothran song I got really, crazily obsessed with was “Failure.” He’s known for his projects Coma Cinema and Elvis Depressedly, and this was the first thing put out under just his name. It was a four-song EP from 2013, short enough to replay till infinity. These are the full lyrics to “Failure,” which I can post in its entirety because it’s quick but says volumes about not liking being someone's child:

I just called my dad
On his birthday
I just let him talk I had nothing to say

And I don't want to die
I just want to be
Eternally asleep, eternally in dreams

I just called my mom
And every single thought
Wanted to be free wanted to be forgot

And I don't want to die
I just want to be
Eternally asleep, eternally in dreams

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Late last year, on Loss Memory, the album with which Cothran retired his Coma Cinema alias, he returned in depth to his relationship with his mother. There’s a song called “Tether” that me and my wife play together a lot:

I want to sleep next to you
After school before my mom calls
To see when I’m coming home

I can finally see where the tether ends
Mortally coiled around nothingness

And “Burden”:

My mom's gone to California
They got a treatment center there
My mom had a fucked up childhood
That's the burden that we both bear

I did an interview with an artist once who makes really meticulous pop-rock, and they said they wrote love songs because in their life they didn’t really know about anything else — and maybe they didn’t even know about love, but at least it was something they could imagine. Repeatedly, over the course of what’s now a 15-year, admirably and transparently hard self-driven career, Mat Cothran does something else. His primary themes are family and death. In my experience, more than love, these are the primary themes of life.

Today, he released My First Love Mends My Final Days under his given name. I was lucky to get it early, and there’s a song called “Never Know Why” I’ve been playing like I used to play “Failure.” I don’t really know much about Mat Cothran besides what he puts in his songs, but that’s a lot, and it’s so reassuring and uplifting to see him return to these concepts with what has to be called growth.

Here’s the first half of “Never Know Why”:

I was going under, thinking about my mother
Having visions of her as a child
Trying to love her mother through a vodka bottle
And in this vision we were reconciled

It's a long way to the meaning of a life
I know we'll get there together, on the other side
Of all this pain we feel, and never know why

My mothers strong and I am
My mother's child

There’s a song earlier in the album where he describes an addict relapsing and asks, “Haven't you heard I’ll be dead soon?” Everything’s not all that rosy now. And I listen to this song a lot, too, when he says “Bury me in the sports bar,” where nobody knows him and he can hide in peace and pain. And I relate so much to that one, at 31 more than I ever did, but you know what comes three songs later? “I know we'll get there together, on the other side / Of all this pain we feel.” And it feels even more true.

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Mathew Lee Cothran’s music helps me more than any love song