Sunday, January 1, 2012

Through A Glass Darkly...Matthew Sweet Looks Back

30 DECEMBER, 2011

It was a mad year for music, and fittingly, the next to last day of 2011 found me at the Echoplex in Echo Park for Matthew Sweet's 20th anniversary celebration of his seminal LP 'Girlfriend'.  A majestic, unrelenting slice of fuzz spiked power pop, it staked out, (along with Teenage Fanclub's 'Bandwagonesque'), a pole opposite Nirvana's ' Nevermind' as a yearning melodic piece turbocharged with guitar work by Richard Lloyd and the late Robert Quine.  A standout record in what was the watershed year of 1991. 

On a personal note, at the indie record store I worked at, it was one of the few albums we could all agree on.  Today it's just as much of an anachronism as it was then, sounding completely apart from its time, yet timeless.
In what I think is a first on these pages, I feel compelled to shout out the DJ.  Kevin Bronson did the tunes between sets, and he had the temperature of the room read correctly.  The highlight being a late set segue from Big Star's 'September Gurls' into The Nerves' "Hanging On The Telephone".  Highest compliment I can pay is the amount of people near me grabbing for the Shazam whenever he switched tracks.  Well played, sir...well played.

Opener Daniel Ahearn And The Jones proved to be a folk duo with pithy observational songs backed with stellar harmonies.  Mindy Jones made an impression when she took the spotlight, but through their short set, it was those harmonies that set them apart from the pack.

Matthew Sweet was accompanied for the occasion by a crack band that included the rhythm section from Velvet Crush.  While pointing out old friends in the house, he noted that it would indeed be track for track on the LP, then plunged into "Divine Intervention".

 I've always been leery of any nostalgia trip, but Sweet quickly dispelled any fears I might have had by sending the songs into overdrive.  He seemed genuinely happy to be there, and not at all trapped by the songs.  After an intense version of "Thought I Knew You", he observed: "That was scary", and then, low and behold, the appearance of real honest to god cigarette lighters in the audience during "You Don't Love Me"!

One plus to the artist doing a whole album twist is the chance to dig a little deeper & pick up some knowledge nuggets.  Turns out the original end of side one was "Winona", (w/needle runoff), and "Speak To Me" was the record's end, but according to Sweet, they took advantage of marginal label oversight and banged out a few more tunes, which happily filled out the cd that most people (including myself), were familiar with. It reset my mind to consider the last two tracks, which in my mind were the emotional crux of the record, were actually bonus tracks.

 The backstory on "Does She Talk", involving the infamous channel 23 in NYC was worth the price of admission alone,

After a luminous 'Nothing Lasts', not wanting to end on a bummer,  he broke strict form, essaying a delerious rendition of  "Sick Of Myself" from 100% Fun.  In closing, it was humbling to see an artist embrace their old work and not feel trapped, and most satisfying to see someone fully having fun onstage.

Endnote: This entry marks the third anniversary of this blog, one of the preciously few New Year's resolutions i've managed to keep...Thanks to all for    support and feedback.

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