Six Degrees of Matthew Sweet
July 18, 2011 2:19 PM   Subscribe

Matthew Sweet stays busy! Long before releasing the acclaimed album Girlfriend in 1991, he recorded a song with REM's Michael Stipe, joined one incarnation of Anton Fier’s alt-supergroup Golden Palominos, and appeared on Lloyd Cole’s eponymous solo debut. Later on he formed The Thorns with Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins, recorded two albums of covers with Susanna Hoffs, and got interviewed by Tears For Fears’ Curt Smith. He also makes ceramic cats.
posted by bassomatic (47 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
That song with "pre-REM" Stipe was recorded in 1983, at which point REM had already released the Chronic Town EP, the "Radio Free Europe" single, and their hugely critically acclaimed first album, Murmur.

Not to take away from the fact that Sweet is great. "Sick of Myself" another first-rate track.
posted by escabeche at 2:35 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Wow. First met him when a friends roomate was engineering "Girlfriend." they come by late Saturday night. And he picks up a guitar and commences. A year later, the album is out, and I'm thinking, "Hey that's the who bogarted my bong and didnt aim in my bathroom!." This guy in an unsung and poorly aiming genuis.
posted by timsteil at 2:38 PM on July 18, 2011 [12 favorites]

escabeche: Doh! You're right; I must have a word with my research department. Strike "pre-REM."
posted by bassomatic at 2:43 PM on July 18, 2011

If we're sharing awesome Matthew Sweet songs, I offer Devil With The Green Eyes".
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:52 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll see that and raise you Sweet and Hoffs taking on "I've Seen All Good People."
posted by escabeche at 2:57 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:02 PM on July 18, 2011 [21 favorites]

What, no love for Scooby Doo?
posted by mysterpigg at 3:02 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I always start screaming that too, and then Marshall Crenshaw comes up beside me and just looks at me, silently, with his sad little eyes, as if to say, "What about me, buddy? What about me?"
posted by escabeche at 3:08 PM on July 18, 2011 [13 favorites]

What BitterOldPunk said.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:14 PM on July 18, 2011

It sort of got overlooked in the alt-rock gold rush of 1993, but Altered Beast still holds up really well.
posted by Rangeboy at 3:28 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Girlfriend live on the Dennis Miller Show in 1992. Robert Quine (RIP) tears it up on guitar. Quine and Richard Lloyd were part of what made Sweet's live shows ROAR.
posted by donovan at 3:29 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have the second Sweet and Hoffs cover album. It's pretty good, although I was already burning out on too many covers when I bought it. (Also miles better than She & Him, IMHO.)

But I really wanted to say I love that he makes ceramics and sells them on etsy.
posted by immlass at 3:32 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant guy -- always happy to see any love for him. Girlfriend is easily one of the best two or three albums of its decade.
posted by scody at 3:32 PM on July 18, 2011

There are a couple of issues with MS. One is that absent Quine and LLoyd he never quite recaptured the early pop genius with his later stuff, which was just too sweet (SWIDT) for my tastes. And second, he ate so may pies he became almost spherical, which didn't alter the music but probably made him less TV friendly.
posted by unSane at 3:34 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

(having said that I probably owe more to him than anyone else in my own music so I bow down)
posted by unSane at 3:35 PM on July 18, 2011

Matthew Sweet is one of my all time favorites. Girlfriend was the first album I ever bought on CD. My freshman year college roommate wore a t-shirt with the Altered Beast logo during orientation as a test -- I passed. I completely wore out my copy of 100% Fun. I must have had Get Older playing on repeat that entire year and it's running through my head now.

The first show of his I went to was at some wooden firetrap in upstate NY. It was a million degrees and they ran out of bottled water. The last, I think, was in NYC and I came straight from work and had to stand out in the pouring rain for about 45 minutes and it ruined the tie I had stashed in my pocket.

Also a great song: Happiness off the Brain Candy Soundtrack.
posted by Jugwine at 3:38 PM on July 18, 2011

Also, if you are looking for a reprise of the marvels that are Girlfriend and Altered Beast, his originally Japanese only release Kimi Ga Suki from 2003 is absolutely stupendous.
posted by unSane at 3:38 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

Matthew Sweet writes excellent pop songs, this I knew.

I did not know that he had a time machine! He traveled back to 1975 to sell ceramic tchotchkes to my Mom.

posted by louche mustachio at 3:54 PM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

In high school, the newspaper editor would play nothing but Uncle Tupelo's "No Depression" and Sweet's "Girlfriend". Since I was a non-self-aware yutz who thought the editor was himself a yutz, I hated the stuff.

At our reunion, I had to admit he was completely in the right; I'm now a dedicated alt-country (whatever that is) fan, and at least two Matthew Sweet albums accompany me on any road trip over four hours.

There is no way one can turn on "sick of myself" and not have to crank it and start flailing.
posted by notsnot at 4:00 PM on July 18, 2011

"Ready" is another slice of pop/rock perfection.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:02 PM on July 18, 2011

In another universe which is way cooler than this idiotic one, "We're The Same" is a runaway hit summer jam of '95.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:03 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Matthew Sweet is so cool. I saw him put on a (brilliant) show back in 1993 or so (Greenwich, CT, holla!), and was cool enough to welcome fans into his trailer. He signed my CD of Girlfriend and I gave him a copy of my band's CD. Totally friendly, genial, appreciative of his fans. And an awesome musician.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:30 PM on July 18, 2011

My wife still loves "I've Been Waiting" from when I put it on a mix CD when we first started dating.

Before his solo career kicked off, Matthew Sweet was in Oh-OK with Michael Stipe's sister Lynda and later was in The Buzz of Delight with Oh-OK's former drummer. The Complete Recordings is Oh-OK's, well, complete recordings. To Understand: The Early Recordings of Matthew Sweet has some Buzz of Delight tracks.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:39 PM on July 18, 2011

One of my favorite albums of obscure power pop, In The Presence of Greatness by Velvet Crush, had production and contributions from Matthew Sweet. Judging by posts on YouTube, it sounds like they still gig with him from time to time, which makes me happy.

If you're a Matthew Sweet fan, you owe it to yourself to check these guys out too.
posted by ardgedee at 5:20 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ceramic bats?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:27 PM on July 18, 2011

Ok since we are comparing Matthew Sweet shows we have seen I have one.
Saw him on a INSANELY cold and snowing/raining night at the old 9:30 club in DC (about a year before they moved) . It was so cold I actually got a coffee (of which I stole the mug,PUNK ROCK).
Anyway it was at this show and a couple of others that he recorded his live album Son of Altered Beast It was so awesome.
posted by ShawnString at 5:48 PM on July 18, 2011

Hopefully I've earned up enough good karma by not threadshitting in the recent John Mayer thread despite the fact that it was totally begging to be shat in, and thus may gush in here instead.

Some thoughts. My older brother is a musician, more than I will ever be. He had his bands and his shows and his scholarships and his Bauhaus and Love and Rockets tapes littering the backseat of his awesome Acura Integra that smelled so much like smoke and he was always cool about steering me away from what I now can admit was crap and towards what was better. Growing up, my tastes were very much based upon his approval. Every once in a while I would even bring him something he hadn't heard yet that he fell in love with (Verve Pipe before "The Freshmen" saturated the radio, 2 Skinnee J's.)

But there was one time as a teenager, when I was listening to 100% Fun, when Mike tried to talk me away from him. He claimed that "Girlfriend," which I'd actually only heard once or twice at that point, was a shameless rip-off of Jefferson Airplane. I pointed out, you know, Queen and The Beatles as being just as similar, but he would have none of it.

It was the first time I said "fuck off" to my brother's tastes, even a little bit. He was wrong, I was right. I'm too young for Big Star to have caught me. Too old to have been lucky enough to find the New Pornographers as a teenager. Matthew Sweet was my power-pop ambassador, and I am not ashamed for a moment. What a genius.

I Almost Forgot
Smog Moon
posted by Navelgazer at 6:09 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thank you, Metafilter, for reminding me that I had Girlfriend hiding somewhere. It's ripped and on the house music server now. Oh this takes me back. Sadly, it looks like both Altered Beast and 100% Fun are on RIAA-tainted labels. :/
posted by introp at 6:37 PM on July 18, 2011

He also, along with Hoffs, was in Ming Tea, the house band from the Austin Powers movies.
posted by Naberius at 6:44 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Matthew Sweet. Pre-tour warmups for the Altered Beast tour.

The Stone Pony. Yes, THAT Stone Pony.

Neither I nor my buddy Bill, with whom I went to the show, could hear very well that night, and it was 3 AM before we got home (to North Jersey), but all you people saying how great Matthew Sweet is?

He is even better live.
posted by mephron at 6:52 PM on July 18, 2011

(true story, last fall)

Me: Hey, just bought Matthew Sweet's Best Of album. He had some great stuff...I'd forgotten.
Friend: He has enough songs for that?
Me: Yeah, man.
Friend: ...
Me: ...
Me: *squint*
Friend: *squint*
Me: K, I'll see you then...
Friend: Yeah...
posted by jimmythefish at 6:58 PM on July 18, 2011

No. Ceramic cats.

/Monty Python
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:14 PM on July 18, 2011

Huh. I've had his "Where you get love" as a pretty much constant song on any mix I've ever made, but I've never delved beyond that.

I have to go educate myself now.
posted by logicpunk at 7:28 PM on July 18, 2011

Marshall Crenshaw's first 5 albums are just pure pop heaven. Maybe future generations will discover his music.
posted by davebush at 7:38 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nice post, particularly the Curt Smith interview and performance. Definitely hadn't seen that before.

Matthew Sweet was my gateway into power pop, too. Pretty much the second artist I ever really, really got into - Altered Beast got me good. ("Falling" is my sleeper favorite from that album.)

Worth noting that his site is kinda stuck in 3 years ago, but he's got a new album coming out in two months. The guy deserves a better website than what he's got.
posted by hijinx at 8:22 PM on July 18, 2011

My Mom's collected owls since the 1960s. I'm totally going to get her a Matthew Sweet owl! They look like all her 1970s owls. She doesn't know who Matthew Sweet is, but I'll look at it when I listen to Smog Moon.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:36 PM on July 18, 2011

I got turned onto him by a friend who was a massive fan and ran a fanzine for him, back awhile. I think I still have my autographed copy of "In Reverse," which I should go play right now.
posted by PussKillian at 8:43 PM on July 18, 2011

Total tangent, but you know who else makes pretty cool (and not nearly as retro-kitsch) pottery? Emigre font designer Zuzana Licko.
posted by me3dia at 10:08 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

omg, i'd want one of those owls even if matthew sweet hadn't made them!

also, i play girlfriend about once a month. it's a spectacular album. get the one with all the bonus content if you haven't yet.
posted by nadawi at 10:56 PM on July 18, 2011

I've only heard a handful of albums where every single song is great-to-perfect (and I've heard a lot of albums, my record collection is in the very high three digits), and "Girlfriend" is one of them. Saw him live once shortly after "100% Fun" (which is also a great album but not in the same hallowed top echelon as "Girlfriend") came out. That he wasn't/isn't a way bigger deal is pretty much criminal, but then several of you have mentioned Big Star (check my username) and the same thing happened to them.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:57 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Holy crap, nadawi, I had no idea there was a super-deluxe reissue! Thank you thank you thank you.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:03 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you can track down his solo, acoustic version of 'Divine Intervention' (it might even be on the deluxe reissue), man, that is so great.

Girlfriend was one of Those Albums for me, back in the day. So much love for it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:22 AM on July 19, 2011

Must dig out the keyring that came with the original Girlfriend I bought on a visit to Atlanta back in the day...

A great album, as are 100% Fun and Blue Sky on Mars, but the Matthew Sweet album I've listened to most since its release is 1999's In Reverse. That really deserved much more attention.
posted by rory at 4:03 AM on July 19, 2011

Wasn't "Sick of Myself" first? If so, weird post framing.
posted by Eideteker at 7:25 AM on July 19, 2011

Oh weird, I totally screwed up my chronology. Again, I learn something thanks to MeFi!
posted by Eideteker at 7:26 AM on July 19, 2011

It's been an age since I listened to Girlfriend, but this FPP brought back to me how poignant and, well, sweet "Winona" is.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:16 AM on July 19, 2011

Marist College Radio. Had to be between 1992 and 1994. The news director and I are both huge Matthew Sweet fans (supposedly he liberated the station copy of Goodfriend before I could, and I spent the next 10 years or so tracking down a copy) and we got to do a phone interview on air. Andy asks a bunch of questions, all pretty good ones, and finally turns things over to me with "So, Neil, do you have any questions for Matthew?"

My well-thought out response? "Nope, I'm good."

Somehow, every single mixtape (and there must have been a half dozen over the course of the year) I made for the girl I was chasing at the time included "Girlfriend". I honestly didn't do it intentionally, it just happened to be a great song that fit the message I was trying to convey.
posted by neilbert at 7:30 PM on July 19, 2011

« Older iPadGate   |   Borders liquidating remaning stores Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments