Lies (Shout! Factory)
We count on Matthew Sweet to bring the power-pop goodness,
and he does so, at least to an extent, on Sunshine Lies,
his 10th studio album (due out Aug. 26). Two dozen years into
a career that’s seen the Athens, Ga. singer-songwriter veer
from fey commercial pap (his 1980s A&M releases) to a
few of the ’90s most perfect pop confections (Girlfriend,
100% Fun) to sprawling affairs that would have benefited
from a narrower scope (In Reverse), it’s never a given
as to what Sweet will deliver next. Here, Sweet comes close
to bringing perfection, but it’s that lack of focus that ultimately
stops the release short.
Opening track “Time Machine” gets things off on the wrong
foot: It’s a psychedelic but cluttered recording that makes
all the right references to its chosen era (the Mellotron
never fails to evoke the Sgt. Pepper’s era) but fails
to amount to anything more than an exercise in recorded nostalgia.
It’s an odd start because, as much as Sweet likes to look
backward, hindsight’s not always 20-20: His best plucked-from-the-past
moments come not when aping the Fab Four, but the when he
evokes the jangly folk-pop sound of early Byrds records.
Thankfully, he does that a bunch here, on the 12-string-guitar-decorated
title track and the rather obviously titled “Byrdgirl.” The
flower-power anthem “Daisychain” is one of the album’s best
numbers, achieving a Roger McGuinn-worthy level of Rickenbacker
flourish. And the ballads, as per usual, are just gorgeous,
especially “Pleasure Is Mine” and “Around You Now,” the latter
a Girlfriend-worthy nugget of unfettered Sweet-ness.
Then there are the rock numbers, which do much to sell the
album title’s duality, but little to enhance the listening
experience. “Room to Rock” is blocky and poorly staged; “Sunrise
Eyes” is Sweet in fist-pumping mode, which never suits him.
But surprisingly, “Let’s Love”—a straight rocker driven by
longtime drummer Ric Menck, and free of much of the guitar
slop that bogs down some of the like-minded tracks—totally
cooks, with a chord-slashing righteousness that recalls the
It’s a little all over the place, like so many Matthew Sweet
records, but for power-pop fans who are willing to pan for
gold, Sunshine Lies has plenty of that buried beneath
its dirty surface.
It Offend You, Yeah?
Have No Idea What You Are Getting Yourself Into (Almost
Does It Offend You, Yeah? are neither as confrontational or
controversial as their name might imply. In fact, these English
electro-dorks decided to name their band after a quote from
the British version of The Office. They do have some
ugly, offensive tendencies however. Sometimes, when stuck
somewhere between Bloc Party and Daft Punk, with abrasive
vocals about breakups over thick bass lines, techno drumming
and ear-shredding keyboard bleeps, it’s not clear if the guys
in DOYY want to fuck you or kill you. And apparently that’s
their whole gimmick: They always keep you guessing.
of the Dead” might make you think you are in store for some
sort of death-metal beatdown; instead what you find is a Human
League-style dance tune with a bleating singer lamenting the
fact that he has to leave some place or the other over the
sound of steel drums and warm guitars—honestly, that is not
a bad thing.
Other tunes like “Epic Last Song” and “Let’s Make Out” have
the dancey, tra-la-la feeling of any good Bloc Party tune
with the bleating sass of Death From Above 1979 mixed in for
good measure. However, there also seems to be a heaping handful
of techno filler with vocoder-laden vocals here, songs that
make you wonder how they didn’t end up as B-sides. Reportedly
the band are extremely abrasive during their live shows, earning
them comparisons to Rage Against the Machine(!). However,
this recording only hints at the band’s potential. It’s not
that I want the band to decide whether they’re a techno band
or a dance-rock band—I like that they won’t pin themselves
to one thing—I just wish they would do both parts better.
Like with the American version of The Office, I was
left wondering why the writers did not take better cues from
the original content they are aping; why they couldn’t try
just a little bit harder.