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Matthew Sweet

After spending the '80s as an unappreciated jangle pop guitarist with Oh-OK and Lloyd Cole, as well as a solo artist, Matthew Sweet emerged in 1991 as the leading figure of the American power pop revival. Like his British counterparts Teenage Fanclub, Sweet adhered to traditional songcraft, yet subverted the form by adding noisy post-punk guitar and flourishes of country-rock, resulting in an amalgam of the Beatles, Big Star, R.E.M., and Neil Young. Recorded with guitarists Richard Lloyd and Robert Quine, Sweet's third album, Girlfriend (1991), became a word-of-mouth critical and commercial hit over the course of 1992, with its title track reaching the Top Five on the Modern Rock charts. For the next five years, as alternative rock was the dominant commercial force in rock & roll, Sweet was a popular concert attraction, and his reputation as an alternative pop singer/songwriter was at its peak: his next two records, Altered Beast (1993) and 100% Fun (1995), were both critically acclaimed and relatively successful albums, with the latter reaching gold status and making many year-end best-of lists. Beginning with 1997's Blue Sky on Mars, Sweet settled into cult status, and while he wasn't enjoying the success of his previous records, most power pop records of the latter half of the '90s were indebted to Girlfriend.

Matthew Sweet began playing music while he was a high school student in his native Lincoln, Nebraska. Upon his graduation in 1983, he decided to attend the University of Georgia in Athens because of its burgeoning underground music scene. Once he arrived at college, he met Lynda Stipe and joined her band, Oh-OK, in time to play on their second EP, the Mitch Easter-produced Furthermore What, which was released late in 1983. The following year, he and Oh-OK drummer David Pierce formed Buzz of Delight, releasing Sound Castles later that year. Over the course of 1984 and 1985, Sweet cut a demo tape with producer Don Dixon. Columbia Records heard the Buzz of Delight record and the demo and offered him a contract in 1985. Upon signing with Columbia, he relocated to New York and recorded his debut, Inside. Released in 1986, Inside featured Sweet playing nearly all of the instruments on the record, supported by a drum machine; the album also featured several cameos, including Chris Stamey, Fred Maher, Anton Fier, and Aimee Mann. That same year, Sweet guested on Blast of Silence, an album by Fier's band the Golden Palominos.

Despite positive reviews, Inside was ignored upon its release and Columbia dropped Sweet. In 1988, he signed with A&M Records and recorded his second album, Earth. Produced by Fred Maher and released in 1989, Earth again featured Sweet as a one-man band, augmented by guitarists Robert Quine (Lou Reed, Richard Hell) and Richard Lloyd (Television). The album failed to make any impact, and A&M dropped Sweet as he was working on his third album in 1990. Over the next year, he earned money by touring as Lloyd Cole's guitarist while shopping a demo of his album to various labels, with little success. Eventually, the president of Zoo signed him upon overhearing the demo in an office. Girlfriend, an album largely inspired by the dissolution of his marriage, was the first album Sweet recorded with a live band, and its sound -- which was powered by Lloyd and Quine -- was considerably more immediate and raw than its predecessors. Upon its late 1991 release, Girlfriend earned strong reviews and "Divine Intervention" became a moderate hit, but it wasn't until the spring of 1992, when the title track took off, that the album became a genuine hit. By the end of the year, Girlfriend had gone gold and Sweet had moved to Los Angeles.

Sweet recorded the follow-up to Girlfriend with producer Richard Dashut, who had previously been best known for his work with Fleetwood Mac and Lindsey Buckingham. Again featuring Quine and Lloyd, the resulting Altered Beast was messier than Girlfriend and consequently received mixed reviews upon release in early 1993, yet it became a sizable college radio hit on the strength of the modern rock and MTV hits "The Ugly Truth" and "Time Capsule." After releasing the stopgap EP Son of Altered Beast in the spring of 1994, Sweet recorded his fifth album, this time with a more commercial producer -- Brendan O'Brien -- who had previously worked with Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. Released in the spring of 1995, 100% Fun received Sweet's strongest reviews to date and went gold on the strength of "Sick of Myself," his first single to scrape the bottom reaches of the pop charts.

Following 100% Fun, Sweet parted ways with Lloyd and Quine, but retained O'Brien for 1997's Blue Sky on Mars. Despite the strong initial placing for its lead single "Where You Get Love," Blue Sky on Mars received mixed reviews upon its spring release, and it failed to match the success of its immediate predecessor. In Reverse followed in 1999, and the best-of collection Time Capsule arrived a year later. Hip-O released To Understand: The Early Recordings of Matthew Sweet in 2002, a collection that Sweet followed up with the Japanese-only release Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu. He returned to the domestic studio in 2004 for Living Things, followed by a collection of choice covers with ex-Bangle Susanna Hoffs called Under the Covers, Vol. 1 in 2006. In 2008, Sweet released Sunshine Lies, an all-new collection of studio material that was warmly received by both fans and critics alike, followed by Under the Covers, Vol. 2 (again with Hoffs) in 2009. Two years later, Sweet hit the road in celebration of Girlfriend's 20th anniversary, playing the album in its entirety each night. That same fall, he also released a new record, Modern Art. Sweet once again teamed with Hoffs in 2013 for their third collection of covers. Released in November 2013, Under the Covers, Vol. 3 focused on songs from the '80s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Matthew did not disappoint at his recent CLE concert.
Matthew Sweet is kinda like the Nick Lowe of his generation. But more consistent and listenable.
Girlfriend was one of the best albums made in the 90s, it was kind of the same sound I loved in the 80 s.
ornevans
Really nice.
Matthew Sweet rocks.
This really needs to mention The Thorns. You need the Thorns on here too. It's one of my favorite albums!
This is just noise
I read an interview with Bob Quine (RIP) once where he accused Brendan O'Brien of mixing most of his guitar work off of 100% Fun. I still love that record, but now I always find myself imagining what could've been.
Looooooooooo v e it
Makes some amazing power pop!
51610679
Just saw him in Boston last week. Great concert. The band actually performed the whole Girlfriend album and then a few extra songs. It was really fun!
jimdrob
Wow! This reviewer didn't even mention Matthew's latter stint with The Thorns! That was a great collaboratio n !
Buffalo Bill lol Change Skin in upper right of Pandora
nik_dangr
Is he sending any royalties to Roger McGuinn?
patentworker
I agree with what everone says - I am a big fan of power pop and Sick of Myself is one of the best examples of that genre ever recorded. That song alone makes him memorable.
How cool would it be to be Matthew Sweet? Guy hangs out making records - eating potato chips - works with cool rock stars. Then goes on vacation.
girlfriend is one of the best guitar-based albums ever. lloyd & especially quine are / were amazing guitarists. it was a real coup for sweet to get both to play on the album.
When he was touring for "Altered Beast" in the early 90's, I met him at Toad's Place in New Haven for a live interview on WNHU-88.7FM. Really sweet guy, no pun intended. Live his band is just as tight as the recorded version.
wish he added more tour dates!
wingracr16
mbashcra, you are behind the times. He has done several albums since then. Both solo and two albums of covers with Susannah Hoffs.
I love the twangy desperation in this song. It's one of my Sweet faves.
Always loved him...way less successful than he deserves. There are soooooo many artists who hit commercial success with a fraction of his talent.
I believe the last thing Sweet did was with The Thorns, which is descent stuff, you can definitely tell the songs he contributed to on that album
nomotorbiker
Classic example of an artist that had the writing and performing talent to be a popular rock artist, but fell through the cracks commercially . Wears his influences with pride. Matthew has put out a lot of great music for almost 20 years. If you like classic and alternative rock that has great guitar and is melodic, catch up on this guy's music, from Girlfriend to now. I wish he would tour more and come to NYC metro area: "Son of Altered Beast" EP has some great live versions of his and others mu
Exceptional!
knorthey
I love Matthew Sweet! Where'd he go???
top drawer

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