Matthew Sweet – Catspaw (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/48 kHz | Time – 39:51 minutes | 509 MB | Genre: Rock, Powerpop
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Omnivore Recordings
Matthew Sweet played in bands in Athens, Georgia as that scene exploded, collaborating with R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, playing in Linda Stipe’s Oh-OK, and The Buzz Of Delight. That work scooped him up into the major label world making countless acclaimed solo records, forming the supergroup The Thorns with Shawn Mullins and Pete Droge, and beginning a series of covers albums with The Bangles’ Susannah Hoffs. Now, it’s time for Matthew to just plain rock out by himself again.
Omnivore Recordings is proud to announce the release of Catspaw—written, produced, recorded, mixed, and entirely preformed (save ferocious drumming from Ric Menck of Velvet Crush) by Matthew at his home studio. Mastered by Bob Ludwig, the Hofner bass and Novo guitars sing and howl, harkening back to classics like Girlfriend and Altered Beast—all while retaining the hooks that dig into the listener. Well, like a cat’s paw.
Available on CD, Digital, and Vinyl, Catspaw opens a new chapter in the storied history of Matthew Sweet—his first album in his fifth decade as a recording artist. It may seem cute on the outside, but be prepared to get smacked by Catspaw.
Who is to say every artist must evolve and experiment and get outside their proven comfort zone to make consequential art? There’s still something to be said for artists who find their groove early and then stick with what they know. Enter Matthew Sweet, now in his mid-50s, who has been mining a seemingly endless seam of power pop—sunnier at some moments than others—since his 1991 breakthrough, Girlfriend.
In his best work, Sweet wisely stacked the deck by tapping some of the finest guitar innovators for hire including Richard Lloyd and Robert Quine. But since 2011’s Modern Art, Sweet has become his own guitar hero. While that can be a bit of a lead guitar letdown, Sweet with his signature buzzy tone and usual stylistic mash of The Byrds, Neil Young and the Beatles, has learned from the masters and here layers in reasonably coherent electric guitar solos, particularly in “Best of Me,” where the one-time pop whiz kid ponders more adult insecurities: “What if the best of me/ Isn’t me at all/ What if my own imagination/ Has guaranteed my fall/ What if a dream/ Is all I really had.” “Hold on Tight,” “Stars Explode” and “At a Loss” all reinforce the image of the older power popper, who’s mentioned in recent interviews that he now feels the weight of age. The sound throughout is close-miked, forceful and like all Sweet, best when pushed with volume.
A DIY project completed at his home studio, Black Squirrel Submarine in Omaha before the lockdown, Catspaw showcases Sweet’s voice in fine form, still able to layer in the vocal harmonies that are his most distinctive and familiar musical gift. Familiar in fact could be Catspaw’s subtitle. All 11 originals—including “Give a Little” with its chugging rhythm and descending verses or “Come Home,” the tune with the album’s most attractive chorus hook—could fit seamlessly into any Sweet record of the last decade. The singer/songwriter who also plays bass and rhythm guitar is assisted in this welcome stasis by longtime collaborator and fellow power pop elder, drummer Ric Menck, who’s best known for his time in Rhode Island’s Velvet Crush. Catspaw is go with what you know. How did fellow Midwesterner Dorothy Gale put it? There’s no place like home! – Robert Baird
1. Blown Away (04:12)
2. Give A Little (03:17)
3. Challenge The Gods (03:56)
4. Come Home (03:11)
5. Drifting (03:28)
6. Best Of Me (02:47)
7. Stars Explode (03:09)
8. Hold On Tight (02:54)
9. At A Loss (03:36)
10. No Surprise (03:59)
11. Coming Soon (02:38)
12. Parade Of Lights (02:44)