Album Review: 'sElf' - Super Fake Nice, Matt Mahaffey

Empty Lighthouse is a reader-supported site. This article may contain affiliate links to Amazon and other sites. We earn a commission on purchases made through these links.

While Beck made a big comeback this year with the yearning, teary-eyed Morning Phase album, his session player and live band member Matt Mahaffey went the other route with a raucous, pile-driving, party-starting new project, Super Fake Nice.

Matt Mahaffey aka mastermind of the band or project known as sElf, has a story that would actually make great fodder for a full-length biopic. There are highs and lows and then worse... years stuck record label purgatory.

Coming up in the same era as Beck and utilizing a similar one-man-band approach to recording, Matt Mahaffey first made a splash in his hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee as a musical boy wonder.

Major labels came a knocking and in 1995 sElf released their debut full length album Subliminal Plastic Motives, a layered, multi-culti Cuisinart of modern power pop. Samples and live instrumentation often smeared together into something that was utterly contemporary.

MTV didn't exactly roll out the red carpet, and after 1999's Dreamworks-backed Breakfast With Girls album failed to blow up, Matt started to have fun doing his own thing. Cue a complete album recorded using children's instruments, Gizmodgery, the devastating loss of his brother and co-rocker Mike, and not one but two or three shelved projects, the new millennium felt like a torturous waiting game for fans of the group... That is until the music industry upheaval where artists like sElf could stream their own new recordings on their websites while the record labels sat on their hands.

File trading passed unreleased albums around the internet, keeping sElf with a rabid following.

Matt was then touring in Beck's band and playing on his albums which culminated in an eye-catching performance on Saturday Night Live.

Beck performed "Clap Hands" on acoustic guitar while being backed up by Matt and the rest of the band sitting at a dinner table using the table settings (cups, plates, cutlery) as percussion.

So the arrival of the Super Fake Nice E.P. should hopefully herald a new era for sElf and a stream of new releases. Opener "Runaway" has a carefree late summer melody set to a monstrous beat. "Gonna Rock" brings back some sorely-missed Beastie Boys style hip hop. "Hey Hipster" skewers the whole "hipster" scene with a searing falsetto and a beat that wouldn't sound out of place on modern pop stations.

Matt Mahaffey is having fun on these recordings and that fun spreads to the listener. The only critique I have is that at six tracks, Super Fake Nice is a tad too slight for classic status.

It leaves sElf fans wanting more and certainly sets the table (pun totally intended) for a full length album. I give Super Face Nice by sElf 4 Empty Lighthouses out of 5.

For more on sElf / Matt Mahaffey: