After going folkie, the
songwriter returns to shaping heartfelt ballads and trippy power-pop-not to
mention vases and pots.
By HAL BIENSTOCK
Many of Matthew Sweet’s most famous songs strike a difficult
balance between screaming guitars and folk-rock melodies. But over the last few
years, that balance has shifted squarely to the folkie side. There was a Crosby
Stills & Nash-style album with Shawn Mullins and Pete Droge as The Thorns,
an acoustic-based solo album (2004’s Living
Things) and an album of ’60s covers with former Bangle Susanna Hoffs.
So fans may be surprised to hear Sweet sing “I need a room
to rock in” on his latest album, Sunshine
“After I did The Thorns, which was very poised, I felt like
I wanted to play loud guitar and get out my frustrations,” he said. “It’s been
fun… to get back to that.”
Sunshine Lies features the same three-guitar lineup as Sweet’s string of classic‘90s albums:
Television’s Richard Lloyd, the Voidoid’s Ivan Julian and sessionman extraordinaire
Greg Leisz. But like those albums, Sunshine
Lies is more than just a six-string showcase. It also has its share of
heartfelt ballads and trippy power-pop.
“The record started off as nothing but loud electric rock,
but then I added other things over time,” Sweet says. “Those songs made the
album seem more full and made the rock moments seem more dramatic.”
While Sunshine Lies is Sweet’s first album in four years, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy.
He’s already working on a sequel to the covers album he did with Hoffs (the
next one will be covers of songs from the ‘70s) and has been developing a new
skill: pottery. Sweet says doing pottery has helped both his music and his bank
account. He started selling his work on his website three months ago and has
already sold 65 pieces.
“There’s a moment when you’re throwing pottery on a wheel
that reminds me of music,” he explains. “The moment where you don’t know what’s
happening and you have to let yourself go. That’s what I’ve always looked for
in music-that life spark, where you just let something happen. It liberated me
and influenced my music in a positive way to think of it like that.”