Matthew Sweet’s guitar work and clever lyrics took 1990s alternative rock out of shoegaze mode and set a new standard. His new album, “Tomorrow Forever,” includes the single, “Trick” which shows the same traits as Sweet’s 1990s work.
Matthew Sweet and 1990s alternative music
In the early 1990s, Matthew Sweet distinguished himself from other alternative performers with his approach to guitar work. The guitar riffs were heavy, but arranged into danceable rhythms. This was especially true on songs like “Girlfriend” and “Sick of Myself,” from 1991 and 1995 respectively. The layered guitar work wove itself around clattering, college-rock drums, and the youth contingent had songs they could dance to that didn’t alienate their alternative sensibilities.
“Girlfriend” also features clever, insistent and flirty lyrics with Beach Boys-style backing vocals. The quality lyrics gave the song credence with alternative fans and critics alike. “Sick of Myself,” with its self-deprecating honesty and Sweet’s nearly-classic riffs, became an instant favorite.
Matthew Sweet from Athens, Georgia to the national stage
Sweet wasn’t the only alternative rock performer from Athens, Ga., or who at least was discovered there as a result of the city’s music scene. R.E.M., and the B-52s had already put the city on the radar of music fans by the time Sweet gained significant audiences. Also, bands such as Drive-By Truckers, The Black Crowes, Widespread Panic and others, hail from Athens.
“Trick” by Matthew Sweet
The new album, “Tomorrow Forever,” features several songs with Sweet’s signature guitar work. One way to describe what Sweet does with guitars is power jangle. Another way to describe it is deliberate. Deliberate as in without pretense, or an air of self-consciousness.
“Trick” is a song about illusions. How do we know who we are, if we can’t see ourselves clearly? “Is it just a trick of the light that shows us who we wanna be?” Sweet poses questions that listeners have to answer for themselves. He doesn’t pose as a guru with answers for everyone. This tone, that Sweet is part of the world the audience inhabits, gives his music a salt-of-the-earth feel.
The rhythm, tone and guitar work on “Trick” not only recall Sweet’s previous work, but also Paul Westerberg’s “Dyslexic Heart” (1992). The ideas presented are straightforward and show Sweet’s wry humor and clever observations. There is just enough edge to “Trick” to mark it as a product of the 21st century. Funny, though, that due to Sweet’s trademark sound, a new song could trick some listeners into thinking that the 1990s had never gone.