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Music Review: In Reverse, Matthew Sweet (1999)

Posted by Jay Medina on January 14, 2007

Matthew Sweet, In ReverseIn Reverse may have been a more “silent release” on the music scene than many of Matthew Sweet’s previous or post works, however, it doesn’t make this CD irrelevent by any means.  Matthew Sweet is a true Power Pop superstar, taking the genre to new heights.

Haunted by the ghosts of his earlier hits like Girlfriend (Girlfriend) and Sick of Myself (100% Fun), Matthew Sweet pays homage to the sounds of the 60’s as made bright and poppy by bands like The Beach Boys.  Sweet avoids the cheesiness that could have easily befallen such a tribute, and instead, creates a very smart retro sound, complete with excellent use of ‘backmasking’.  He even uses the Beach Boys’ studio musicians to create the lush fa-lala-la la sound that was popular back in the day.

I guess we could suppose that Sweet was prepared for such a venture into the retro-pop scene, as he was part of the band, Ming Tea, as featured on Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.  Although Mike Meyers (Shrek, So I Married an Axe Murderer) was the lead for the band, prominent music celebs Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles) were backing him up with true shagadelic success.

 If it is possible to listen to In Reverse in a single-flowing context, from track 1 to tack 14 in order, I would highly recommend it.  Some of the songs have no lead-in and blend right from one to another, but that’s part of what makes it so great.  Sweet tried very much to make this even a classical piece as much a classic piece of music.  In a classical piece, there are different movements to the overall symphony, and Sweet does this in a modern-retro sort of way.

The most notable songs being If Time Permits (sample here) as a true Beach Boys-sounding anthem that makes you imagine yourself driving a red Ford Thunderbird convertable down the California coastline.  It stokes images of positivity and an “everything’s gonna be great” kind of feeling.  That is powerful stuff for Power-pop to be able to do.

Other notable tracks are Beware My Love (sample here), Future Shock (sample here), and What Matters (sample here).  The thing I noticed most about this retro-homage to a simpler time in music was that the music is not simple by any means.  Not only is it not simple, it is smart, clean, and lush.  Matthew Sweet shows true musical genius in going the other direction with music.  He pulls it off with a magical splendor that gets lost in today’s music machine driven by the suits in the music industry.

In showing his respect for music from the past, Sweet himself never loses his true identity, and instead embraces it.  Although he may cringe when he gets requests for the seventy-billionth rendition of Girlfriend at his concerts, hopefully he would take solace in knowing In Reverse is a solid contribution to the world of music.  I know I am better for having heard this gem of CD, and I just want the world to know about it.

Do you own this CD?  I’d love to hear your opinion of it.  Send a comment and make your thoughts known.

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