Sunday, August 06, 2006

Vinyl Tap: Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend

I get a new turntable and dust off some old records. Vinyl Tap #16:

The guy can dream, can’t he? Just because 1991’s Girlfriend was inspired by the break-up of his marriage doesn’t mean that Matthew Sweet can’t entertain anticipatory fevered-brow fantasies of a rendezvous or two with the likes of a winsome Tuesday Weld-type, as suggested by the cover shot, or go ga-ga over a pre-scofflaw, rockstarry-eyed Winona Ryder, of whom, in "Winona," he shyly and in a go-for-broke major-label manner inquires, “Could you be my little movie star?”

Love lost and love lumbering and lurching toward new possibilities comprises a bittersweet emotion that finds musical expression in the inherent tensions of Sweet’s third and most fully-realized album, a snap cracklin’ Poptopian masterwork. Irresistible harmony-drenched vocal melodiousness lands Fab Foursquare in a Big Star-light star bright soundscape, set off against the assertive bite and crunch of the stellar front-and-center guitars of the late Robert Quine (Richard Hell, Lou Reed) and Richard Lloyd (Television).

The crisp instrumental assault is especially ferocious and commanding on the title song and “Divine Intervention,” while coming into the angular fray in the bridge of the Jules Shear-style “Looking At The Sun." And just as a responsive give and take punctuates “I Wanted To Tell You,” the squeal and squelched discordancy of “Don’t Go” makes for a controlled chaos. In addition, a bluesy fluidly -- and traces of Robin Trower -- marks “Day For Night.”

Of course, none of this would matter if there wasn’t a solid musical structure or enough melodious hooks upon which to instrumentally suspend. Fortunately, Sweet’s songwriting craftsmanship is solid throughout, with all the infectious power-plus pop-rock -- running tough and tender -- you could ask for.

Lyrically, Sweet runs the gamut of love’s conventional trials and tribulations. In the glow of the warmly gorgeous “Your Sweet Voice,” Sweet convinces us that, indeed, “all my earthly cares might fade away / If you hold me in your warm hand that way." But he can still humorously startle, as in “I’ve Been Waiting,” where he shows how accommodating he can be:

The secret on your lips
That nobody knows
Gentle in your eyes
You can wear my clothes.

Or maybe his new girlfriend Winona could pick up some next time she’s in Beverly Hills. Apparently, she gets some kind of discount.

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