Friday, February 5, 2010


This video kinda makes me laugh. "I've Been Waiting" to show it to you! So much about it screams early 1990s. The psychedelic backdrops, the anime spliced in, Matthew Sweet's floppy bangs. "It's a lot of look," I say. (Tim Gunn!)

But the song itself is a perfect example of power pop, the kind I learned about from Kyle.  Kind of nice to trace some of what he gave me, because his musical tastes and insights were an important shaping influence on me. We saw Matthew Sweet perform two or three times over the years, and we loved singing harmonies on Matthew Sweet songs. I dig the whole sound package.

There's Top 40 pop music (what you hear on the radio), and sometimes it's well done, but many times it's pre-fab, meaning not written by the performers, overly produced, quite synthetic. In that scenario, the vocalist is non-essential (Britney Spears, etc.) or at least secondary to the other elements. That's not to say those kinds of pop songs aren't catchy. They are. But the primary creators are the producers, etc. The singer is eye candy, dancing eye candy. Pitch can be adjusted, timbre can be faked.

But there is another kind of pop music (not just one other kind either, obviously). Other kinds of pop music. The granddaddy of the Matthew Sweet kind is Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Wilson's harmonies and songwriting skills are often under-appreciated, in part because of his strange/self-destructive tendencies, though why that should be a liability in the entertainment world is beyond me. Everybody knows the Beach Boys, of course, but not everybody knows what a genius Wilson is. When someone tells me he/she likes "Pet Sounds," it means something, usually that the person in question is a fan of this kind of smart pop music.

Someone who loves Brian Wilson probably also loves Matthew Sweet. Matthew Sweet writes jangly, bright pop harmonies in the same tradition, and in his kind of music, the vocalist/songwriter is central, but not necessarily because that vocalist has a traditionally beautiful voice. There are other sounds going on too. Can you hear the 60s style guitar? His kind of pop, especially the flavors found on this seminal album Girlfriend, blends sweet, tart, salty, with a dash of another decade. Love this record! Love the Tuesday Weld picure on the cover (it'll show up at the end of the video. If you're not too dizzy, look for it.)

1 comment:

  1. I saw a great documentary last year at the Film Festival about the back up musicians who played for a lot of the albums in the 60s - they established the sound, and a big part of it was devoted to Brian Wilson and his genius. It was really interesting and fun, and I learned a lot about how albums are produced.