Release Date: Aug 26, 2008
Record label: Shout Factory
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
For somebody who played a large role in reviving guitar-driven power pop in the '90s, Matthew Sweet spent a good chunk of the new millennium avoiding the six-string. Apart from 2003's Japanese love letter Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu, Sweet walked on the soft side in the years since 1997's Blue Sky on Mars, crafting psychedelic song cycles, Beach Boys tributes, and an album of sweet duets with Susanna Hoffs. Sunshine Lies returns the guitar to the center, pushing the playing of Greg Leisz, Ivan Julian, Richard Lloyd, and Sweet to the front and relying on arrangements that feel lean even when they're each graced with subtle flourishes of layered, overdubbed harmonies, Mellotrons, and backward tapes.
A failing marriage doesn’t guarantee great art, but it certainly helps. For Matthew Sweet, it was the well-publicized secret behind 1991’s Girlfriend, a masterpiece of pop anguish. Though 1995’s 100% Fun came close to living up to its title, he has been unable to duplicate that intensity in his handful of albums since. Sunshine Lies contains some of Sweet’s best moments in years, with the classic push/pull of gloriously sunny melodies and lyrical darkness underneath.
Over two decades into a solo career, the body of work of one Matthew Sweet continues to enervate even ardent fans. These people have followed him throughout much of this time, though most got on board after 1991’s smash Girlfriend, which made him one of the most visible artists of the alt-rock explosion mere moments after Nirvana had primed a public obsession with alternative rock. Its deck was stacked with appearances from a menagerie of stellar musicians and songwriters alike, from Richard Lloyd and the late Robert Quine to Robyn Hitchcock and Lloyd Cole (who had employed Sweet as his bassist, following two stalled, simpering solo efforts in the ’80s), and both its pacing and its demeanor make it a timeless classic.