Earth To Matthew Sweet: Loosen Up!!

Studio perfectionist needs to rock more.

Warming up for the release of his upcoming album Brendan

O'Brien co-produced Blue Sky on Mars, Matthew Sweet is in the midst of a

mini-tour that stopped by Pearl Street in Northampton, MA Monday night

(February 17). Bringing his own brand of (bitter) sweet guitar pop music, he

played--in his own words--"some new songs and a bunch of older stuff we don't

normally play." Oh yeah, he couldn't help but throw in a few sure-fire crowd

pleasers like "Sick of Myself" and "We're the Same" for good measure.

Sweet

and his four band mates began the night with "Get Older," a song from his last

studio album 100% Fun. For the rest of the night he seemed determined to

marry fuzzed-out Neil Young guitar heroics with Big Star inspired AM radio pop,

something he has mastered on his string of excellent albums (Girlfriend,

Altered Beast, and 100% Fun).

On most of those albums,

especially 100% Fun, Sweet has played almost all of the instruments

himself--the sign of a true anal retentive perfectionist. Knowing these songs

had been beautifully crafted with the utmost love and attention, I wondered how

Sweet would translate them onto the stage. Would he let his creations go and

simply be swept away in the rock 'n' roll moment, or would his knack for

control put out any sparks that might appear? The answer was a little of

both.

One sign that Sweet had brought his perfectionist

tendencies...



One sign that Sweet had brought his perfectionist

tendencies on tour with him was the guitar tech on the side of the stage who

kept a battery of 12 guitars in tune, handing a freshly tuned model off to

Sweet between songs. Earth to Matthew! You're playing (mostly) loud distorted

guitar rock for a crowded roomful of drinking college students... they're not

gonna notice any difference between the sound of guitar A and guitar Q. Next

we'll be hearing that Sweet fines his band mates for missing notes like James

Brown.

While it wasn't the most spontaneous show I've ever seen and Sweet

isn't the most dynamic performer (the guy next to me mouthing the words and

playing air guitar had more charisma), he won me over with his undeniably

catchy songs. Halfway through the night Sweet played "Sick of Myself," an MTV

staple a couple years ago and the song that finally battered away the defenses

I had erected against him. After hearing that song a half dozen times I threw

my hands up in the air and admitted that I actually liked his songs, much to my

chagrin. After over an hour of old and new songs, Sweet and the band left the

stage and returned for one encore consisting of the Kink's "Waterloo Sunset,"

Girlfriend's "Evangeline," and a couple others.

For the record, the

new songs held up nicely against the tried and true standards. Further, they

passed the pop music litmus test of being instantly catchy. Even after a few

hours I still couldn't get a couple of them out of my head.