Matthew Sweet
Sunshine Lies

2 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

Matthew Sweet has managed to carve out a career in music in spite of himself. He's one of the many scattershot songsmiths to matriculate out of the Athens, Georgia music scene in the late 80s. (I'll try not to hold that against him.) His third album, 1991's "Girlfriend," was his break through recording, and not only because it featured a coquettish photo of 60s heartthrob Tuesday Weld on the cover. The sugary power pop was, at times, energetic and engaging, with the title track reaching the top ten and the quasi-Yardbirds psych of "Divine Intervention" earning play as an FM darling. Determined not to be cast as a pop idol, Sweet's subsequent albums, "Altered Beast," and "100% Fun," were dark, ugly, and less accessible. Sweet's public image rebounded when he formed The Thorns in 2002 with alternative folkies Shawn Mullins and Pete Droge. The move was a master stroke on paper, (Crosby, Stills and Nash for the 21st Century!), but not in terms of sales. If more songs on the album were as finely crafted as "No More Blue Sky," you might have remembered who The Thorns were when I mentioned them. Teaming up with gerbil-voiced ex-Bangle Susannah Hoffs in 2006, Matty recorded lame do-overs of sacred classics such as Love's "Alone Again Or," The Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing," and Fairport Convention's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes." The cover tune carnage nearly ended Matthew's career tout-de-sweet.

In an attempt to bounce back, Sweet has gathered his musical cronies, drummer Rick Menck, guitarists Ivan Julian, Greg Leisz and near-legend Richard Lloyd (Television), along with the sadly unshakable Hoffs, to release his 10th album, "Sunshine Lies." Sweet has termed it "power-pop-folk- rock-psychedelic-melodic-singer-songwriter-type stuff," and "sonic art nouveau." I'll call it a safe return to the style that got Matty there in the first place.