In this social media age, a musical figure such as the doyen of ’90s power pop, Matthew Sweet, could have disappeared into obscurity, no longer fashionable. Sweet gained prominence early in his career with ‘Girlfriend’ and ‘100% Fun’, the high bench marks upon which everything else he did was going to be judged against.
In recent years Sweet has interspersed his original albums with covers albums recorded with Susanna Hoffs. ‘Forever Tomorrow’ is Sweet’s first original set of songs since 2011’s ‘Modern Art’ and shows that Sweet hasn’t lost his knack for penning classic hook-laden songs. There is nothing flashy in the same vein that you’d associate with say, the likes of Teenage Fanclub. It’s pure distilled indie pop hooks; all finely-honed verse-chorus-verse. Just because it’s 2017, Sweet isn’t suddenly going to lose his shit and start exploring dissonance or disco beats.
Sweet may never win awards for originality, but his songwriting is totally vindicated by focusing on those saccharine hooks. It’s the sort of writing where you can tell within the first twenty seconds that a song is going to stick around for weeks within your mind space. Entangled epitomises the quality of songwriting with its chiming, jangly guitars, and targets the endorphins faster than a hit of nicotine.
There isn’t a paucity of chords or vocal notes to explore within Sweet’s brand of song writing, even after three decades. Understated gems are littered throughout, like Finally, Country Girl, Carol and You Knew Me. There is anger in Off The Farm but that is tempered by the sumptuous backing harmonies. Mostly, though, this is an album that is upbeat both musically and lyrically.
Even the down-tempo Haunted, with its classic lead guitar ringing out seems like an extension of Sweet’s affecting vocals. It’s adorned with clear, rolling piano and is an album highlight. The aptly named Bittersweet is similar, but no less memorable.
Lead single and album opener Trick is actually one of the weaker tracks – a misleading move trailer that doesn’t do justice for a whole film. The low points, though, are very few and overwhelmingly outnumbered by the high points. Sweet’s style of sugar-coated, guitar-driven power pop is immune to the fads that result from being steered by record labels that only look at listener demographics and habits. Just when you wondered if you were going to see Sweet again, he returns with as strong a collection of songs that he has ever made.