Matthew Sweet actually had two albums before 1991’s breakthrough, Girlfriend. The second of those two came out in 1989, so when he set out to create a greatest hits collection it made sense for him to do it in 2000 and celebrate his great decade. Time Capsule covers the five albums and one EP Sweet released in the 90’s and includes a couple of new tracks. And, even though he’s apparently still releasing new records, this collection has all the songs of his you know.
And what songs those are. The man wrote a perfect pop song in “Girlfriend” and came close to perfection with “Divine Intervention” and “Sick Of Myself.” I think writing a perfect pop song is the kind of thing society should reward by giving you a Caribbean island and supporting you in whatever you want to do for the rest of your life, and to have almost hit the jackpot twice more, well, Sweet’s a pretty gifted songwriter. And that still leaves 15 tracks left to consider in this collection.
And heck, let’s tackle those tracks, going from best-rated to worst…or let’s at least start that way and see how far we get. I mean, there’s no reason to try to pin some narrative on a greatest hits collection, amirite? For the last Really Like, we’ve got “Behind The Smile.” To be honest, I couldn’t hum the song for you right now. [Later: It’s the “I haven’t been a good friend while you’ve been mine” song -Ed.] And then, of the remaining 14 tracks, we have nine Likes, and, well, here’s where we get into the crux of this review. And Ima be honest with you, I’m working this out in real time here. If there was ever an album that screamed 3.5 clowns, it’s this one. Because, due to a great bulk of the record being Like and below it’s not four clowns. And the fact that I can say that definitively means, given my resistance to half-clown ratings, which I try to save only for times when I can’t decide between two full-clown choices, that it should be three clowns. But dammit it seems better than that, and yeah, as an album that represents the peak of Sweet’s career, I’m probably weighing it more heavily toward the great songs collected here.
But there are too many other songs. And Sweet has included too many slow songs and songs that veer away from his power pop perfection sweet spot. He maybe did this to shine light on the fact that he can do country-tinged and ballads in addition to power pop, which I kinda get, but when you’re the best in the game at the best genre ever, then why would you want to point out you can do lesser genres not as well?
So if I’m looking at my rating on this album as a reflection of Sweet’s best songs in his best decade, then, yeah, it’s really hard to leave it at three clowns. But if I look at what it is, a Greatest Hits album, with the inherent lack of cohesion that comes with that, and a collection that, I have to guess, does not actually pull out the 16 best songs available on the six releases represented herein, then I have to say, yeah, this is a solid three clowns.
Really Like: “Divine Intervention,” “Sick Of Myself,” “Behind The Smile”
Like: “I’ve Been Waiting,” “The Ugly Truth,” “Devil With The Green Eyes,” “Someone To Pull The Trigger,” “We’re The Same,” “Where You Get Love,” “What Matters,” “Ready,” “So Far”
Meh: “You Don’t Love Me,” “Time Capsule,” “Until You Break,” “If Time Permits,” “Hide”
Song Notes: After the jump
- Divine Intervention – First four songs are from 1991’s Girlfriend
- I’ve Been Waiting
- You Don’t Love Me – Country. Languid. This starts pretty icky, except for pretty good lyrics about “a beautiful moment” where he is told he’s not loved. But gets very good. I had it at Dislike due to the start, but the last 75% of the song is Like, so call it Meh. It also goes on too long at the end
- Time Capsule – The next two songs are from Altered Beast. end is too long
- The Ugly Truth – more country/bluegrass here, with a fiddle
- Devil With The Green Eyes – from Son Of Altered Beast
- Someone To Pull The Trigger – back to Altered Beast. stretches his vocal range here
- Sick Of Myself – Two tracks from 100% Fun and I’m surprised it’s so few
- We’re The Same
- Where You Get Love – three tracks from Blue Sky On Mars. some super sweet synth at the top then plods a bit too much
- Until You Break –
- Behind The Smile –
- If Time Permits – first of three tracks from In Reverse
- What Matters – gets psychedelic at end
- Hide – strings, or at least synth strings. like theremin-y strings. song is mostly boring.
- Ready – first of two new songs. A bit Beach Boys.
- So Far –