To release a landmark album is both a blessing and a curse. It’ll shoot you to fame, but you can spend the rest of your career chasing after it, as it disappears into the far distance. The popular options are to make pale photocopies of that album or release music that’s so radically different to the “hit” that you leave your audience confused. Matthew Sweet has found a third option.
“Girlfriend” came almost out nowhere in 1991. After a couple of solid, but largely unremarkable albums, his third record was practically a powerpop manifesto. Packed to bursting with diamond hard tunes, with choruses so sturdy you could build tower blocks on them, “Girlfriend” became one of a crowded genres’ defining records. It’s brilliant. His subsequent albums have been consistently good, but on “Tomorrow Forever”, Sweet has almost forensically determined what made “Girlfriend” so fine and used that information to make this album one of his best.
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The opening track “Trick” owes much to his ’91 album – a big guitar crashes through the chords and a buzzing lead guitar weaves around them. Sweet’s plaintive vocal sits perfectly in the mix and the chorus wastes no time in arriving. It’ll live in your head for hours afterwards. This is a good start. “Entangled” sounds a lot like the Searchers (ask your granddad – he’ll tell you who they are), complete with a classic Beatles coda. At a whopping 4:20, “Haunted” may overstay its welcome slightly, but you can forgive Mr Sweet one, small indiscretion.
The cast of characters will be familiar to Sweet aficionados and Paul Chastain and Ric Menck make their presence felt alongside Gary Louris of the Jayhawks and Rod Argent – yep, him from the Zombies. On “Country Girl” Sweet manages to combine a down-home, folksy melody with a gentle rock rhythm to great effect. If there was any justice this would be playing on a radio near you, right now.
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Sweet is a prolific songwriter and is always eager to stuff his albums with material which means that the less committed listener may find a finger posed over the “skip” button. Not so with “Tomorrow Forever”. You’re never too far from a pop-rock gem. And the songs don’t hang about, so you know there’ll be something cool along in a moment.
Track 11 is the clincher. In “Music For Love”, Sweet has blended all the best bits of powerpop – ringing guitars, a memorable chorus, harmonies, a short, stinging guitar solo and it’s all wrapped up in under three minutes. Matthew Sweet knows his craft.
Oh by the way, if you’re looking for melody, there’s none left – Matthew Sweet has used it all…
“Tomorrow Forever” is available now via Honeycomb Hideout
Track list is as follows: