Matthew Sweet (b. October 6, 1964), US musician

"I thought I might have to find another career or get a job at the 7-Eleven.”

Born and raised in Lincoln, NE, upon graduating high school, he headed for the University of Georgia and the then burgeoning but now legendary alternative music scene of Athens, GA. He joined the short-lived band formed by Michael Stipe’s sister Lynda Stipe, Oh-OK, and played guitar on their second EP, Futhermore What (1983). Oh-OK broke up and with the group’s drummer David Pierce he formed Buzz of Delight, which released a single EP, Sound Castles (1984).

On the strength of that EP and a demo, he was signed by Columbia Records. He moved to New York, and recorded his debut album, Inside (1986). He also toured with the Golden Palaminos and contributed to their album Blast of Silence (1986). Meanwhile, Inside was being ignored and Columbia gave him the boot.

Sweet was signed by A&R Records and hooked up with guitarists Richard Lloyd of Television and Robert Quine, veteran of albums by Lou Reed and Richard Hell, to record his second album, Earth (1988). The success of his second album duplicated that of his first album, and he was dropped by his record label again.

"It was the most terrible experience of my life."

Though Sweet said that about his divorce, the rest of his life sucked pretty hard around this time too. A flood in his home destroyed his record collection and his guitars. He scraped by touring as a guitarist with Lloyd Cole, but he wondered if a career change was in order. Then he was signed by Zoo Records and reuited with Lloyd and Quine to record Girlfriend (1991), his breakthrough album. Out went the drum machine and they cranked up the guitars. Sweet worked through the trauma of his divorce by creating an astonishing power pop song cycle of pain and loss which was raw, romantic, and sincere. I’ve found myself returning to this album again and again over the last decade.

In 1992, the title track became a hit and Sweet moved to Los Angeles and settled comfortably into the role of an alt-rock cult favorite. Sweet, Lloyd, and Quine recoreded Sweet’s fourth album, Altered Beast (1993). Though it rocked harder, it wasn’t as tightly constructed or thought out as Girlfriend. It spawned the hits “The Ugly Truth” and “Time Capsule” and an EP of outtakes, Son of Altered Beast (1994). 100% Fun (1995) came next, and the song “Sick of Myself” even hit the pop charts, though near the bottom.

His sixth album Blue Sky On Mars (1997), failed to duplicate the success of his previous effort, as did his next album, In Reverse (1999). Though his alt-rock presence has declined in recent years, that doesn’t mean he’s on the way out. His profile was raised when he appeared as member of the group Ming Tea in the movie Austin Powers in Goldmember, but I’m trying not to hold that against him. Though Girlfriend has been his best album, to the idea that he peaked in terms of creativity and success with that work, he replies:

“I'm sure I'll be just as depressed at some other point in my life."

Gale Contemporary Musicians database

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