The Bard of Danvers

3 min read

Jules Bourbeau ’25

Arts Editor

The Guardian:
Bard of Many Names, Matt Farley

Self-described “Z-list celebrity” Matt Farley has written over 23,500 songs–and counting. His repertoire also spans across over 70 different pseudonyms, each with their own corresponding theme. For example, The Guy Who Sings Songs About Cities & Towns has crafted a musical revue covering 41 US states, a statistic that must make Sufjan Stevens quake with intimidation. 

A small but dedicated fanbase maintains a record of Farley’s output which, in addition to music, also includes several films all produced under the umbrella of his company Motern Media. Devoted Farley followers have pieced together somewhat of a lore connecting the characters he plays in each of his projects, including a universe in which one of his alter egos steals another persona’s girlfriend.

My first encounter with Farley began with his song under the name Papa Razzi and the Photogs titled “Fritz Wetherbee,” after the star of the New Hampshire Chronicle. Over time, he popped up in other places, whether in the form of “The Jerry Song” by The Guy Who Sings Your Name Over and Over or his relatively more famous “poop song” series released as The Toilet Bowl Cleaners. Bafflingly, there also exists The Odd Man Who Sings About Poop, Puke and Pee, which acts as the rival band to The Toilet Bowl Cleaners despite the lead singers being the same person in Farley’s universe. At first, I failed to recognize Farley’s iconic stilted vocals and jaunty piano as all belonging to one person, but I rapidly strung together the details, like a bulletin board in an FBI office. 

Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered that Matt Farley is not only from, but continues to live in, my hometown of Danvers, Massachusetts. The strangely specific details presented in “I Like Danvers Great Town” first raised my suspicions. Additionally, although he wrote the album I’ve Never Left My Home Town under a separate persona, the song “Train Tracks / Bike Path” off that record would suggest that the hometown in question is indeed Danvers, due to the description of the town’s iconic rail trail.

Do not be deluded by his gimmick albums, however, Farley also boasts a solid repertoire of what he calls “No Joke” songs. As their moniker suggests, “No Joke” songs tend to touch on more mature subject matter and generally feature lengthier, more complex arrangements. Despite the difference in topic, the album covers are all consistently snapshots of Matt Farley himself, usually in his basement studio. While he does not suddenly develop legendary musical abilities absent from his novelty songs, do not fall into the trap of thinking that he is only worth a quick laugh. Fans of earnest artists and bands with minimal production like Silver Jews, Daniel Johnston, and Smog might genuinely enjoy the “No Jokes” catalog.

In case you were wondering, he has indeed written a song about Hartford, in which Trinity College makes a brief—but triumphant—cameo.

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