Monday, February 27, 2012

I'd Love To Turn You On #51 - Matthew Sweet 100% Fun

        When Matthew Sweet's name is mentioned most people cite the 1991 album Girlfriend as his definitive statement. While Girlfriend has some outstanding songs in "I've Been Waiting," "Evangeline," and the breakthrough title track, what doesn't get mentioned is its overlong and underwhelming second half. In retrospect Sweet was still searching with Girlfriend and though there were some hits, his 1995 release100% Fun is a more consistent record and easily stands as his best. 

The album opens strongly with "Sick of Myself," "Not When I Need It," and "We're The Same." Taking cues from the Beach Boys and Big Star, Sweet deftly weaves heart-on-sleeve melancholia with sublime vocal and guitar lines. After a slight dip in the action on the next three tracks, "Come To Love" marks the beginning of a stellar second half, the pinnacle of which is the unlikely ballad "I Almost Forgot." From the opening cry of the pedal steel "I Almost Forgot" strips bare the underlying longing throughout all of Sweet's career. Its poignancy is arresting but not unexpected considering Sweet's lyrical preoccupations. From here the album closes solidly with guitar freakout "Super Baby," comforting "Get Older" and the towering ballad "Smog Moon."
Sweet's all-star cast of players is in full form on the record, most notably lead guitarists Robert Quine (co-founder of Richard Hell & The Voidoids and Lou Reed's lead guitarist on The Blue Mask) and Richard Lloyd of Television. Their razor sharp and chaotically unbridled solos prove the perfect foil to Sweet's sugary sensibilities. 

90s rock presented a hefty amount of grit, from the slacker atonality of Pavement to the sonic assault of Jesus Lizard, but a large part of the decade's rock music was steeped in pop. From The Lemondheads to Weezer to *cough* The Gin Blossoms, pop melodies were king. As a document, 100% Fun exemplifies some of the best intelligent pop the decade had to offer and deserves a listen, if only to reveal its superiority to Girlfriend

--- Paul Custer ---

1 comment:

John Wenzel said...

Good stuff! I think "Altered Best" is overlooked as well...