After spending the ’80s as an unappreciated 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, with the latter 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.
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.” After releasing the stopgap EP Son of Altered Beast in the spring of 1994, Sweet recorded his fifth album, this time with a more commercial 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 “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. Other standout tracks include the swirling, psychedelic ”Oh, Oldendaze!,” the ruggedly assertive ”Late Nights With the Power Pop,” the acerbically witty ”Evil By Design, Goodbye Nature” and the sweetly soulful ”Modern Art.”
Sweet recently 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 is currently writing and recording an album at his new studio in Omaha where he now lives.