First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2006, Volume 13, #6
Written by Tracy M. Rogers
Originally released in 1991, Matthew Sweet’s classic Girlfriend has long been considered not only his quintessential recording, but also a seminal album within the realm of power-pop. Marrying California-bred sunshine with Southern rock, Girlfriend finds Sweet contemplating life, spirituality, and lost love. Fifteen years later, Legacy Recordings — most recently known for bringing Johnny Cash’s sublime Personal File to the world — has re-released Girlfriend with three bonus tracks as well as a second disc containing live outtakes of Sweet’s songs along with a few cover tunes.
As always, the original studio tracks are right and tight. With its crunching, blues guitar riff and stark percussion, Divine Intervention harkens back to Neil Young and Crazy Horse circa 1969, while on I’ve Been Waiting and Evangeline Sweet draws upon the sunny, California rock scene of the late 1960s. The title track features lyrics straight from Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love, but with it’s combination of post-grunge guitars, psychedelic vibe, and pop melody, it still manages to sound fresh.
Winona, You Don’t Love Me, and Your Sweet Voice are soft, country-rock ballads that are laced with pedal steel guitar, heartbroken lyrics, and harmonies obviously influenced by Crosby, Stills and Nash. With its Spanish, acoustic-oriented flavor, Thought I Knew You is reminiscent of Love’s Alone Again Or, while Don’t Go, with its dramatic lyrics and crescendoing melody, latches onto an ’80s-derived ambience. Does She Talk? is a down-and-dirty rocker that once again finds Sweet’s inspiration resting squarely upon Neil Young’s shoulders, though Nothing Lasts owes its melody and arrangement more to folk music than to the worlds of rock or pop.
The three new tracks on the updated edition of Girlfriend — Good Friend, Superdeformed, and Teenage Female — originally appeared on a CD single for the title track in 1992. Good Friend is an alternate take on Girlfriend that is far more lo-fi and far less psychedelic than its counterpart on the album, while Superdeformed features a melody and harmonies that are lifted from The Byrds’ and placed within an early ’90s framework. Teenage Female ends the first CD with a pop sensibility, lyrics about teen fans, and almost Dylan-esque vocals.
The live portion of Girlfriend [Legacy Edition] has as many highlights as the first half. The acoustic version of Divine Intervention carries the song back to its roots in ’60s folk, while the live interpretations of Girlfriend and Day For Night find Sweet turning the songs, respectively, into a blues boogie and a hard rock-meets-blues ballad. Looking at the Sun once again finds Sweet going acoustic, while Does She Talk? is infinitely more raucous than its studio counterpart. Someone Pull the Trigger is a later composition by Sweet that is both morose and infectious.
The true high point of Girlfriend [Legacy Edition]’s concert material, however, may be Sweet’s cover of Neil Young’s Cortez the Killer. Featuring diverse instrumentation — including acoustic guitar, violin, and dueling lead vocals, courtesy of Sweet and the Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray — it possesses all of the rock prowess of Young’s initial version, and it elucidates a key influence necessary to understanding Sweet’s perspective. The two-disc set ends with an acoustic cover of John Lennon’s Isolation, which ideally sums up a collection that indisputably revolves around the themes of lost love, angst, and loneliness. The summation of numerous recordings from 1991 and 1992, Girlfriend [Legacy Edition] serves for novices as an ideal introduction to Sweet’s work, though it also makes an intriguing addition for fans of the original album.
Girlfriend [Original Album] — ½
Bonus Materials — ½
Girlfriend [Deluxe Edition] —
Girlfriend: Legacy Edition is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box