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Matthew Sweet - In Reverse
(Volcano/Jive)

I wanna love some record—I hear you need some record to love. Well, just in time to provide the necessary rock and roll love hangover, staving off the need for the rock and roll dating service or the rock and roll 1-900 phone line, in walks the old flame you haven’t seen in a while. His name is Matthew, and what a site for sore ears he is. In Reverse, the seventh album from a man who made perhaps the definitive pop/rock record of the decade, 1991’s Girlfriend, demonstrates that Matthew Sweet is not just back, he’s hungry for lovin’.

So many of the record’s 14 songs stick out. "Faith In You" is the fraternal twin of 100% Fun’s "Sick Of Myself"—a straightforward, slash ‘n’ burn rocker built on a great, glorious, loud guitar sound and a heap of doubts. Though while the angst of "Myself" was self-directed, here on "Faith" it’s more concerned with the party of the second part. This song has single written all over it. Also in the rocking vein is "Split Personality," more in the self-assured "Sick Of Myself" mode lyrically.

"Millennium Blues" kicks off the proceedings with little horn touches borrowed from "Penny Lane," but it’s hardly a Baroque song. The Beach Boys production homages of "If Time Permits" and "I Should Never Have Let You Go" sound so natural that what’s strange is only that Sweet’s never tried it before. So what if everyone else has done the Brian Wilson thing to death of late—this guy has more right than most to give it a whirl, and he pulls it off with admirable conviction. Of the many songs in rock history with the coy name "Untitled," Matthew’s surely must be one of the few to actually use the word in its lyrics—"Don’t let me go on untitled," he pleads with a "bop-bop" background over the melancholy melody. Breaking out of the more traditional pop mode, "Thunderstorm" draws the album to a close with an amibitious 9:37 mini-symphony. Talk about suite emotion. Mid-tempo tunes like "Trade Places" and lead single "What Matters" vary the pace nicely and help piece it all together. And the ballads, the ballads, the ballads—aaaahhhh. "Worse To Live" and calls to mind Honky Chateau-era Elton John, except somehow intangibly cooler.

When he rocks, he rocks. And when he’s playing Mr. Sensitive, he’s so on target it’s almost unnerving. All Matthew Sweet has to do is produce Meat Loaf, and then we can officially call him the Todd Rundgren of the ’90s. In Reverse will break your heart in all the right ways. And I’m never gonna set it free. Play it backwards.

YEAH YEAH YEAH, 1999