Matthew Sweet: Sunshine Lies


Arguably one of the architects of alternative rock, Matthew Sweet is nevertheless a pop traditionalist of the highest order. His watershed 1991 album Girlfriend, like more diverse productions such as In Reverse and Living Things, is centered on the work of a compact rock and roll combo and so too is Sunshine Lies.

As Sweet’s work has evolved, the strength of his best recordings derives from original material. Appropriate in its thinly-veiled reference to the seminal LA band, "Byrdgirl” features chiming rhythm guitar alongside sweet layers of singing interspersed with streamlined guitar fills from Greg Leisz.  That this performance sounds no more or less natural (and credible) than “Flying" is as much testament to Sweet’s versatility as a composer as the players’ skills.

Television guitarist Richard Lloyd, like Leisz, a regular accompanist of Sweet’s over the years, lets loose there with frenetic guitar on that cut, hearkening to a propensity for noise that enticed punk rockers to Matthew Sweet’s early work. Fretman Ivan Julian has his chance to rattle the walls on "Room to Rock," the title of which suggests Matthew’s skill as a pop songwriter: the author might just as well be referring to a psychic space as a physical one (though this album was recorded in a home studio!).

"Feel Fear" attests to the vulnerable side of Sweet’s personality, but, as it gives way to "Let’s Love," and later on, "Sunrise Eyes," his resolute side emerges. Matthew’s boyish voice so gracefully rides the rise and fall of melodies like that of "Pleasure Is Mine" and "Around You Now." it’d seem the tunes come easy to him, yet the words evince a care grounded in honest, sometimes painful soul-searching. It’s not surprising then, to discern an undercurrent of melancholy in numbers so otherwise bright.

The lush Beatlesque likes of “Time Machine” aside, Matthew Sweet and his musicians make no overt attempt to duplicate any retro style whatsoever on Sunshine Lies, thereby suggesting, in no uncertain terms, that the sound of guitars, bass and drums remains an timeless source of inspiration.

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