Friday, July 18, 2008

Shower Me With Your Sunshine Lies

Matthew Sweet - Sunshine LiesWell, I couldn’t resist listening to a preview copy of Matthew Sweet’s new album Sunshine Lies in its entirety. It’s not due out until August 26 (pre-order here,) but here are some of my initial thoughts after listening to the whole album several times through.

It is exceptionally well balanced. There are plenty of rockers to offset the rollers, and vice versa. Matthew really displays his full range here, including his stellar voice. Many times he wraps it in layers to deliciously warm effect, and at other times he just lets his loose.

It is hooky and catchy as hell – perfectly too poppy. Of course, that’s what you’d expect from him, but this album is full of it and we should not take it for granted.

He’s obviously been quite influenced by his retro work with The Thorns and Susanna Hoffs (who even vocally guested on the stellar standout Sunshine Lies.) Byrdgirl (the misspelling is no accident) and Daisychain could and might easily be outtakes from The Thorns, or tunes he would’ve covered with Hoffs had they actually been released in the late 60s with their sonic counterparts. Flying and Room to Rock will rock your ass off. Feel Fear will leave you covered in goosebumps. Let’s Love will have you singing that simple yet universal sentiment in your head all day long – and that is indeed a good thing for your psyche.

I gotta tell you, though, after the rollicking Sunrise Eyes, he loses me a bit through the last three tunes. They’re serviceable Matthew Sweet songs, which make them quite good compared to most, but for me they just don’t match up well with the rest of the album, especially that middle chunk, which is a showcase for Matthew at the top of his game. They could just be slow burners, though.

Compared with the rest of his canon, I’d rank this sonically on par with the excellent In Reverse, which makes sense considering it was, in a way, the last typical Matthew Sweet album. Living Things was an interesting yet underwhelming diversion for him with Van Dyke Parks and Kimi Ga Suki was the high point in letting his hair down for his Japanese fans - unencumbered by the pressures of the industry. Sunshine Lies gets back to showcasing his studio mastery while setting us up with some blistering rockers that will sound even better live.

As much as it pains me on many different levels to say it and despite how good it really is, I don’t think Sunshine Lies will necessarily win over too many new fans. There's no Sick of Myself to capture the zeitgeist, although something like Let’s Love could plausibly take off in a summer pop anthem sort of way or even Sunshine Lies because it is so damn juicy. Hopefully Shout! Factory will do right by him and promote the hell out of it. That’s something Zoo/Volcano never did well. I hope I’m wrong and this proves to be his ultimate breakthrough. If not, rest assured Sunshine Lies is - at the very least - purely a fan pleaser.

This is not my last word. C'mon ... new Matthew Sweet is Too Poppy manna! Until then, pre-order Sunshine Lies and let's do it, let's love.


Anonymous said...

I've also heard the album and actually feel it is one of his best. There isn't a track on it that I don't thoroughly enjoy. It's a lot to take in on first listen (in a good way), as there is a lot going on on some of the tracks.

As for new fans, I know of at least one already! I let a friend listen to it and he fell in love with it almost instantly... and he's mostly a heavy metal junkie. I was actually quite surprised at his reaction! Ha!

This will be a great end-cap to the Summer. Bring on the tour!

Oh yeah, I saw this on the Mathew Sweet mailing list:

Anonymous said...

Consider me extremely jealous of your advance copy.

I've listened to the mp3 player on his website. The title track seems like (intentionally or otherwise) it could come straight off of Inside or Earth. Only the production is, of course, more organic.

AWESOME songs being previewed.

-Warren from PHX

Anonymous said...

In a word, WOW. This is Matt's greatest album since Girlfriend. For me, nothing will ever top Girlfriend, but this is an EXTREMELY close second. Not as great as girlfriend, but better than everything else. Sunshine Eyes is one of Matt's top 5 (if not 3) songs. The other songs are great too. Can't stop listening to the album. And Matt, if you're out there, I'm only listening to an advance copy because I just couldn't wait. It's been way too long. I'll definitely buy it the moment it comes out.