‘Cause you got a good thing going, baby: the best of Matthew Sweet 1991-1996

Lloyd Cole deserved the MTV play, but he was a brunette, thick of face, and often mean. Yet he played rhythm guitar on Girlfriend, a tit-for-tat move after Matthew Sweet played bass on Cole’s 1991 eponymous American breakthrough and  excellent Don’t Get Weird on Me, Babe. Timing helped Sweet: released in the epochal autumn of 1991, Girlfriend rode a sudden surge in A&R promotion and label dollars to college and, incredibly, album rock radio. He lost the latter a year later, but it didn’t matter: 1993’s Altered Beast and 1995’s 100% Fun were certified gold or were near gold anyway. The tunes are sweet. The harmonies are in the right places. If the Bangles had released them, no one on Miami’s WVUM 90.5 would have bit (Susanna Hoffs would work with Sweet on several minor, worthwhile twenty-first century projects).

But the Bangles didn’t boast Robert Quine and Richard Lloyd juicing and counterpointing Sweet’s sweets. Even when Cole and Lloyd skedaddled, Quine was enough: few power pop acts in the Poppy Bush Interzone with FM radio ambitions allowed their instrumentalists the freedom to jangle and raunch up irrespective of lyrics, never mind the presence of Fred Maher — a Lou Reed and Scritti Politti veteran — and, well, Mick Fleetwood. Sweet’s problem, however, was the degree to which his band held his tunes hostage. Liberated from their frictions, they played like the usual passive-aggressive watch-me virtuosity expected of the Posies and Gin Blossoms, and in that they weren’t charmless, as the Blue Sky in Mars and In Reverse inclusions here suggest.

1. Sick of Myself
2. I’ve Been Waiting
3. Day for Night
4. Dinosaur Act
5. Evangeline
6. Not When I Need It
7. Devil with the Green Eyes
8. Divine Intervention
9. The Ugly Truth
10. We’re the Same
11. Winona
12. Someone to Pull the Trigger
13. Love
14. Where You Get Love
15. Thunderstorm

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