Matthew Sweet w/ Tommy Keene - 7/26Wednesday, July 26 2017 6:00pm Doors / 8:00pm Start
- Front Premier
at City Winery Atlanta
After spending the '80s as a jangle pop guitarist with Oh-OK and Lloyd Cole, as well as a solo artist, Matthew Sweet emerged in 1991 as the leading figure of the American power pop revival. Like his British counterparts Teenage Fanclub, Sweet adhered to traditional songcraft, yet subverted the form by adding noisy post-punk guitar and flourishes of country-rock, resulting in an amalgam of the Beatles, Big Star, R.E.M., and Neil Young. Recorded with guitarists Richard Lloyd and Robert Quine, Sweet's third album, Girlfriend (1991), became a word-of-mouth critical and commercial hit over the course of 1992, with its title track reaching the Top Five on the Modern Rock charts. For the next five years, as alternative rock was the dominant commercial force in rock & roll, Sweet became a very popular concert attraction and solidified his reputation as the premiere alternative pop singer/songwriter. His next two records, Altered Beast (1993) and 100% Fun (1995) were both critically acclaimed and successful albums, reaching platinum status and making many year-end best-of lists.
Matthew Sweet began playing music while he was a high-school student in his native Lincoln, NE. Upon his graduation in 1983, he decided to attend the University of Georgia in Athens because of its burgeoning underground music scene. Once he arrived at college, he met Lynda Stipe and joined her band, Oh-OK, in time to play on their second EP, the Mitch Easter- produced Furthermore What, which was released late in 1983. The following year, he and Oh- OK drummer David Pierce formed Buzz of Delight, releasing Sound Castles later that year. Over the course of 1984 and 1985, Sweet cut a demo tape with producer Don Dixon. Columbia Records heard the Buzz of Delight record and the demo and offered him a contract in 1985. Upon signing with Columbia, he relocated to New York and recorded his debut, Inside. Released in 1986, Inside featured Sweet playing nearly all of the instruments on the record, supported by a drum machine; the album also featured several cameos, including Chris Stamey, Fred Maher, Anton Fier, and Aimee Mann. That same year, Sweet guested on Blast of Silence, an album by Fier's band, the Golden Palominos.
During 1988, Sweet signed with A&M Records and recorded his second album, Earth. Produced by Fred Maher (Scritti Politti) and released in 1989, Earth again featured Sweet as a one-man band, augmented by guitarists Robert Quine (Lou Reed, Richard Hell) and Richard Lloyd (Television). Girlfriend, an album largely inspired by the dissolution of his marriage, was the first album Sweet recorded with a live band, and its sound -- which was powered by Lloyd and Quine -- was considerably more immediate and raw than its predecessors. Girlfriend earned strong reviews and "Divine Intervention" received good radio exposure, but it wasn't until the spring of 1992, when the title track exploded on the radio, that the album became a genuine hit. By the end of the year, Girlfriend had gone gold and was later certified platinum.
Sweet recorded the follow-up to Girlfriend with producer Richard Dashut, who had previously been best known for his work with Fleetwood Mac and Lindsey Buckingham. Again featuring Quine and Lloyd, the resulting Altered Beast was subversive compared to Girlfriend and considered by many critics and fans alike to be a favorite. The album became a sizable college radio hit on the strength of the modern rock and MTV hits "The Ugly Truth" and "Time Capsule." Sweet recorded his fifth album, this time with producer Brendan O'Brien, who had previously worked with Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. Released in the spring of 1995, 100% Fun received Sweet's strongest reviews to date and went gold then platinum on the strength of the Top 5 radio hit "Sick of Myself”.
Following 100% Fun, Sweet retained O'Brien for 1997's Blue Sky on Mars. In Reverse followed in 1999, and the best-of collection Time Capsule arrived a year later. Hip-O released To Understand: The Early Recordings of Matthew Sweet in 2002, a collection that Sweet followed up with the Japanese-only release Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu. He returned to the domestic studio in 2004 for Living Things, followed by a collection of choice covers from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s with Bangles member Susanna Hoffs for Under the Covers, Vol. 1 – 3.
In 2008, Sweet put out his tenth studio album, Sunshine Lies, which he termed as "power-pop- folk-rock-psychedelic-melodic-singer-songwriter-type stuff”. By turns achingly melodic and startlingly visceral, Sunshine Lies swirls with poetic emotion and stark attitude, bringing neatly into play the entire gamut of Sweet's stylistic experience. Released in 2011, Modern Art features 12 new compositions of Sweet's trademark wistful, yearning pop that recall some of Sweet s touchstones: the Beatles, Beach Boys and Big Star. ''She Walks the Night'' is reminiscent of early period Byrds, while ''Ladyfingers'' stomps along with the authority of T. Rex.
Sweet wrote and recorded (and sang and performed guitar on) a Journey parody song for an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer forms an ill fated garage band.
Known for his knowledge and extensive collection of Margaret Keane paintings, Sweet was hired as a consultant on the 2014 Tim Burton film “Big Eyes". Many of the Margaret Keane paintings in the film are from Matthew’s collection.
Sweet recently completed his new album Forever Tomorrow, recorded at his new studio – Black Squirrel Submarine - in Omaha where he now lives. Matthew engineered, performed on guitars, keyboards, bass and god knows what else, sang lead and background vocals and mixed the recordings. The record was mastered for CD, vinyl and download at the famed Abbey Road Studios in London by Sean Magee, a long time veteran at the studio. Sean won a Grammy for his Beatles reissues, and has recently won accolades for his remastering of the John Lennon solo catalog reissues. The record will be released on June 16, 2017 on Sweet’s label - Honeycomb Hideout – with label support and distribution provided by Sony/RED Distribution, LLC
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Eleven full-lengths, four EPs, three compilations and one live album into the game, Tommy Keene is in the midst of a creative roll that, in the space of just six years, has yielded four studio albums — five, if you count 2010 career overview Tommy Keene You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009. The rock savant’s new offering, Laugh in the Dark, is the latest in a fruitful partnership with North Carolina’s Second Motion Records label, comprises ten fresh Keene nuggets meticulously assembled over the course of six months, a period in which his “unobvious covers” record Excitement at Your Feet saw release to unanimous critical acclaim.
Laugh in the Dark, while characterized as always by Keene’s distinctive flair for melodic guitar-driven rock and brawny power pop, marks a subtle shift in the artist’s songwriting modus operandi in that unlike previously, the material is all of recent vintage. As he explains, “There were always songs left over from the last project or ideas that hadn’t been fleshed out. What I've done in the past before starting to write for a new record would be to demo a cover or resurrect an old song of mine that I liked but never made the final cut for an album. But all the songs on Laugh in the Dark were started and finished last year from April through October. I started with a completely fresh slate on this one.”
Indeed, Keene cites the experience of doing an entire album’s worth of others’ material as being key to that “fresh slate” — and possibly even opening up some creative avenues to explore. “That’s really true,” says Keene. “Somehow, making the covers album freed me up to not be so overly hypersensitive as to my influences. In fact, I didn’t even worry at all about songs, melodies, etc., that might borrow too obviously from my main muses. Hence you have a direct concoction of the Beatles meet the Who by way of Big Star, with a little Stones for good measure.”
To that end, Laugh in the Dark sounds utterly unrestricted while still remaining true to Keene’s lifelong inspirations. Opening track “Out of My Mind,” with its brash power chords and anthemic vibe, subtly conjures vintage Who, while “Last of the Twilight Girls” has a Radio City-worthy opening riff and a succinct-yet-meaty solo to remind listeners of Keene’s prowess as a lead guitarist. Likewise, the title tune’s jangly invocations and wistful choruses speak to his instincts as a pop classicist. “Go Back Home,” with its bluesy acoustic framework spiked by sleek slide guitar, suggests a marriage between Led Zeppelin III and Let It Bleed. And album closer “All Gone Away” is overtly Beatlesque, from its “Dear Prudence”-inspired melody to the psychedelic guitar/keyboard flourishes to a generally epic feel. (Watch for this one at Keene concerts as a show closer as well.)
It’s still a uniquely Keene project from start to finish, however, awash in buoyant melodies as well as introspective — and at times, dark — lyrical ruminations. “I have had some major upheavals in my life the last few years,” confesses Keene, and it’s not hard to detect echoes of those issues if one listens closely. “When I’m writing an album I look for a beginning, a middle and an end,” he continues, “not necessarily in a thematic sense, but I do try to get songs that represent where I am at the present time and hope they feel consistent.” Keene, previously of D.C.-area combo the Razz, hit the national scene in 1982 with Strange Alliance. Then in 1984 a six-song platter of pop perfection titled Places That Are Gone (Dolphin) landed him high on the CMJ charts and atop the Village Voice Pazz & Jop EP of the Year poll. Blatantly romantic, unapologetically melodic, bittersweet but absolutely invigorating, it still stands as a powerful statement.
He made enough noise in the early ’80s to get the majors involved, leading to 1986’s Songs From the Film (Geffen) Produced by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, the album spawned two MTV videos and spent 12 weeks on Billboard’s Top 200. The accompanying Run Now EP led to the singer as well as its title track appearing in the Anthony Michael Hall movie Out of Bounds.
For 1989’s Based on Happy Times (Geffen) Keene headed down to Ardent Studios in Memphis to record with producers John Hampton and Joe Hardy. The ironically titled disc is the darkest album in the Keene catalog, with heavier guitars, fewer jangles, and a more brooding, fatalistic outlook. Following that he took a break from recording, eventually signing with Matador for 1996’s Ten Years After and 1998’s Isolation Party. (During this period he also briefly spent time in Paul Westerberg’s touring band.) Between 2000 and 2004 he released a live disc called Showtunes (Parasol), The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (SpinArt) and rarities/demos/unreleased-tracks collection Drowning: A Tommy Keene Miscellany (Not Lame)/
Back on the road in 2004, a trek opening for Guided By Voices led to his joining Robert Pollard in ’06 as a touring member of his post-GBV band the Ascended Masters and, two years later, Boston Spaceships. Meanwhile, 2006 also saw the release of Crashing the Ether (Eleven Thirty), recorded primarily by Keene himself at home, along with Blues and Boogie Shoes, a collaboration with Pollard under the Keene Brothers moniker. An initial effort for Second Motion, 2009’s In the Late Bright, was soon joined by Tommy Keene You Hear Me: A Retrospective 1983-2009, a two-CD collection holding over 40 of his best tunes. Then in 2011 he delivered the masterful Behind the Parade, boasting emphatic hooks, irresistible refrains and vibrant, jangly melodies with a distinctly ’60s sensibility.
That in turn led to 2013’s aforementioned Excitement at Your Feet. Those who had followed Keene’s career already knew his definitive versions of Alex Chilton’s “Hey Little Child” and Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons.” Here he tackled influences ranging from the Stones, Donovan, Bee Gees and the Who to Big Star, Echo & the Bunnymen, Television and Roxy Music, but rather than choosing obvious material he opted for deep cuts and lesser-known gems.
With the arrival of Laugh in the Dark Tommy Keene offers yet more evidence that he is like an athlete rediscovering his prime. Only in this artist’s case, he never left it. Incidentally, the album title comes from a ride at an amusement park on the outskirts of his old stomping ground of Washington D.C. — the same park where the cover photo for 1984’s Places That Are Gone was shot. “See, I am consistent!” he concludes, smiling at the memory.