Sunday, July 7, 2013

Matthew Sweet Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu 2003

Matthew Sweet has had an up-and-down career, and along the way he's produced some of the best hard power-pop ever recorded. His magnum opus was his third, the gorgeous Girlfriend in 1991. But he's come darn close to equaling that classic several times, and this one is one of them.

The CD was released in Japan in 2003 as a gift to his Japanese fans, and wasn't released in the US for another 18 months or so. Sweet wrote the songs quickly, and recorded them with Ric Menck, Greg Leisz and Richard Lloyd, the core group that produced Girlfriend. Sweet's pop-rock confections really benefit greatly from Richard Lloyd's scronky guitar sound.

The songs themselves are unusually strong, and the bash-it-out home production allows them to show their strengths without over-embellishment. The stronger songs include Dead Smile (the smashing opener), Morning Song (a perfect rock ballad), The Ocean In Between (a lovely melody thrashed out with abandon, and a great Lloyd guitar lead, indispensable), I Don't Want To Know (another quick-paced ballad), and the hard-rocking Hear This. The record almost never lets up. Even the few ballads include big, loud, crunchy guitars. Sweet comes up with some of his best melodies and catchy choruses, and the band rocks hard.

Not everything he's done has been equally successful as Girlfriend, but at least he hasn't rehashed the same formula over and over. Then again, this is that same formula, and the result is stellar.

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