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In Reverse

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: In Reverse

Artist: Matthew Sweet
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: October 1999

Review by LarryG
3½ stars out of 4

Since 1991, when he put out his great Girlfriend record, Matthew Sweet has been one of the best creators of fun garage rock. He's unashamed to show his love for the Beatles and 60's pop. On In Reverse, Sweet has worked hard to make his best record since Girlfriend, carefully and brilliantly constructing songs that, like the work of his heroes the Beach Boys and Beatles, combine an innocent love of pop and intelligent, careful songcraft. The songs have a classic simplicity and quality. In Reverse starts with Millennium Blues. Sweet sings of being half in one millenium and half in the other. He's mostly still in the last one, specifically the 60's, but the part he borrows is the forward looking psychedelic rock of Revolver songs like She Said, She Said and Tomorrow Never Knows. Millennium Blues, with its opening horn fanfare, trippy tape loops and great big beat supplied by Ric Menck's drums, captures the excitement of those songs. Once the song has made its point it seamlessly segues, Abbey Road style, into If Time Permits, a very nice Beach Boys type ballad. Sweet's voice is pleasant but it can be a little too sweet. He never leaves it too exposed though, adding layers of instruments and his own blue eyed soul harmonies. Time Permits creates a rich atmosphere with multiple musicians playing keyboards and percussion. Sweet has always surrounded himself with strong musicians. Pete Phillips provides a nice psychedelic guitar fill which links Time Permits to the similar Beware My Love. In Reverse was clearly a labor of love. Four of the songs have at least 14 musicians and all contribute to a rich sound. I Should Never Have Let You Know is another song with a pop charm and full sound reminiscent of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. The elegant, classic sound is partly created by instruments like a harpsicord. A theremin, which is on many songs, adds a good, retro edge.

What Matters, In Reverse's single, is a great, catchy poppy rocker, given a nice edge. The title of In Reverse partially alludes to Sweet's use of Beatles style tracks of instruments with the tapes played backwards. Among the guitar sounds on What Matters are cool Byrdsy 12 strings, some of which are played backwards. Sweet links What Matters to Write Your Own Song, a fairly nasty rebuke of someone criticizing his work. The music creates the feeling that Sweet is gleeful about getting something off his chest. The song has the exhilarating energy of a Exile on Main Street rocker with John Ginty's rollicking piano. In Reverse has two scorching rockers that are reminiscent of the title track from Girlfriend. Faith in You is a simple, straight ahead rocker. Sweet sings of not being a man of faith but finding that his love might be something to believe in. Split Personality is exciting musically but a little too stupid and repetitious. In my mind, nearly everything on In Reverse works. Ballads aren't really Sweet's strength but the ones here generally work. Hide is a nice, sincere regretful song about a couple, both of whom are too quick to run when there are problems and too afraid to show their flaws. It's a touching song, simply built around Sweet's piano, like 100% Fun's I Almost Forgot. Worse to Live has a similar theme to REM's Everybody Hurts. Mournful horns and Sweet's empathetic vocals make Sweet's song showing support for a friend in distress heartbreaking. Thunderstorm, which closes In Reverse, is perhaps a touch too ambitious in trying to create a multipart suite but it's still interesting and tuneful with a 60's feeling of searching.

Since Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet has made a number of good records, especially his last one Blue Sky On Mars, which had a lot of good rockers. Still, In Reverse is Sweet's best since Girlfriend. It doesn't rock as hard as Girlfriend but it might have an even higher percentage of good songs and it has that great, sumptuous sound.



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