Matthew Sweet (born 6 October 1964) is a Nebraska-born Power Pop
musician who gained some success with the Alternative Rock
boom early in The Nineties
, tapered off, and instead settled into recording and touring for a devoted fanbase.
Beginning to write and record songs as a teenager, Sweet moved to Athens, Georgia to attend college, attracted by the city's alternative music scene. After some stints in Community Trolls, Oh-OK and The Buzz of Delight, he was signed to Columbia Records
in 1985. After his debut Inside
flopped, he was dropped and instead moved to A&M Records, where he made another unsuccessful album, Earth
. These albums suffered from severe cases of multiple producers and over-use of synths (with the first being recorded in one-man band mode
) and received given mixed reviews at best. A&M also gave him the boot after Earth
, and he moved to Zoo Entertainment instead.
Suffering from a Creator Breakdown
after a divorce, Sweet entered the studio in 1990 to record a new album, with his new crack band formed of ex-Voidoids members Ivan Julian (guitar), Robert Quine (guitar), Fred Maher (drums) and ex-Television
guitarist Richard Lloyd. The third time proved to be the charm, as Sweet and Maher's straightforward production combined with the tension between Sweet's Epic Riffs
and Lloyd and Quine's avant-garde chaos made Girlfriend
a critical success upon release the next year. The two successful singles "Girlfriend" and "I've Been Waiting" didn't hurt either.
For his followup Altered Beast
, Sweet recruited famous guest musicians such as Mick Fleetwood
, Pete Thomas
, Jody Thomas
, session keyboardist Nicky Hopkins and fiddle player Byron Berline, taking his Power Pop
in a more diverse
direction and supplying Darker and Edgier
lyrics. Needless to say, this confused his newfound audience and attracted lukewarm reviews. The next album, 100% Fun
, reduced the band to its key members but otherwise continued with the Darker and Edgier
direction (the title comes from Kurt Cobain's suicide note
, for starters).
Sweet's albums began reversing from the Darker and Edgier
course with Blue Sky on Mars
, but its reception was lukewarm given that it lacked his earlier secret weapon: Lloyd and Quine's gnarly, edgy guitar work. It failed to spawn even an Alternative Rock
hit like his previous albums, leaving him to the status of Cult Classic
. Not that that's discouraged him - to this day he continues writing hooky Power Pop
albums for his fanbase. Well, okay, except In Reverse
. And he did reunite with Lloyd for Kimi Ga Suki
Sweet has a huge
following in Japan
, which can be attributed to the fact that he is One of Us
: the videos for "Girlfriend" and "I've Been Waiting" used clips from Space Adventure Cobra
and Urusei Yatsura
before anime became really popular Stateside. Kimi Ga Suki
was originally a Japan-only release as a "thank you" for his fanbase there before unexpected popularity also brought it to the USA.
- Inside (1986)
- Earth (1989)
- Girlfriend (1991)
- Altered Beast (1993)
- 100% Fun (1995)
- Blue Sky on Mars (1997)
- In Reverse (1999)
- Kimi Ga Suki (2003)
- Living Things (2004)
- Under the Covers - Cover Albums recorded with Susanna Hoffs; the first volume (2006) focused on tracks from The Sixties, the second (2009) from The Seventies, the third (2013) from The Eighties.
- Sunshine Lies (2008)
- Modern Art (2011)
Matthew Sweet provides examples of the following tropes:
- Cover Album: Two of them.
- Cover Version: He contributed a cover of "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?" to the tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits (the same album with The Ramones' breakneck cover of "Spider-Man", incidentally).
- The Cover Changes The Meaning: "Beware My Love" by Wings is sung from the viewpoint of a jilted lover warning that his replacement will mistreat the woman he's leaving while the narrator in Sweet's version is an abusive lover apologizing for his misdeeds.
- Creator Breakdown: Girlfriend, Altered Beast and even 100% Fun, judging by some of the lyrics.
- Creator Cameo: Lindsey Buckingham and Steve Howe play guitar on Sweet and Susanna Hoffs' covers of "Second Hand News" and "I've Seen All Good People", respectively. Dhani Harrison similarly fills in for his late father on "Beware of Darkness". Curiously, there's no sign of Richard Lloyd for "Marquee Moon".
- Darker and Edgier: Altered Beast
- Dream Team: Sweet seems to have a talent for getting famous musicians to play on his albums - asides from the Altered Beast cast, Van Dyke Parks guests on Living Things, and In Reverse also included famous session musicians Jim Keltner on drums and Carol Kaye on bass).
- Epic Rocking: "Thunderstorm".
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Divine Intervention".
- Japanese Love Matthew Sweet
- Lead Bassist: Matthew fills this role sometimes, whenever there are no other credited bass players on a song. (Of course, overdubbing still allows him to play guitar and a bunch of other instruments.)
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Sick of Myself".
- One of Us: Asides from his love of anime and a tattoo of Lum, Blue Sky on Mars' title is a Total Recall (1990) reference, "Evangeline" is about the comic of the same name (specifically, it's from the point of view of the character Johnny 6) and Altered Beast is named after a Sega Mega Drive game.
- Religion Rant Song: "Divine Intervention" isn't as angry as XTC's "Dear God", but it does pull a Holding Out for a Hero on God (the chorus goes We're all counting on his/divine intervention) and voices doubts about his benevolence (Now does He love us?/I look around/And all I see is destruction).
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Yes, all those harmonies on his albums (except the ones with Hoffs) are Sweet alone.