In the years since releasing Girlfriend,
something profound has happened to Mr. Matthew Sweet. A string of great and
sometimes overlooked albums has culminated in the gem that is Modern Art. Yes, all the things fans would expect from a Matthew Sweet record are here; the
jangly Byrds like guitar lines, the beautiful, near ethereal vocals and the
random heavier tune. However, there is something different about Modern Art. There are deep soundscapes, mellotron, backward tape loops and the
occasional sound effect that you can’t quite put your finger on. The unique
jazz influenced drumming by comedian Fred Armisen drives “Ivory Tower” and
lyrics throughout Modern Art are equal parts Syd Barrett, Gram Parsons
and Cat Stevens. All of these elements would be best appreciated with a pair of
1970’s earmuff headphones and a giant brick of hash. Modern Art is laced
with great pop tunes like “Baltimore” (with the lyric I’m stuck here in
Baltimore/ while you roam free), a boogie woogie flavored number
(“Ladyfingers”), a nod to the sound of power pop giants Big Star (“Late Nights
with Power Pop”), reminiscing on a strange past and uncertain future (“Oh,
Oldendaze!”) And the gorgeous grace of “When Love Let’s Go I Fall” is nothing
short of classic Matthew Sweet.
There are several references to
changing times, lost chances and getting old on Modern Art that made me
wonder if Matthew is feeling the pressure of Father Time bearing down on him or
if he is a realist that has finally come to grips with and accepted his fate.
Whatever the fuel, the songsmith has created sterling and a wonderfully
adventurous record that is quite possibly his best since 1995’s 100% Fun.
DOWNLOAD: “When Love
Let’s Go I’m Falling”, “Baltimore” DANNY R. PHILLIPS