Friday, June 29, 2018

Review: Vinyl Reissue of Matthew Sweet's '100% Fun'


Even though he made the albums that defined him during the CD age, Matthew Sweet still went the analog route in the studio. While this may not have been the most practical form of music making in the nineties, it is very faithful to the vintage vibe that Sweet’s best music radiates. 

Girlfriend, the first of Sweet’s classic triad, still tends to get most of the love, but in my estimation, the two albums that followed deserve equal plaudits: the gnarly Altered Beast and 100% Fun, which sits in the zone between Girlfriend’s pristine jingle-jangle and Altered Beast’s mid-fi roar. More concise than either, 100% Fun arrived the latest but it may ultimately prove to be the best entry point into Matthew Sweet fandom. So it makes some sense that 100% Fun is the first entry in Intervention Records’ reissue campaign that will see all three of Sweet’s essentials reissued on vinyl in audiophile quality and with bonus tracks. 

So along with the fundamental joy of hearing great songs such as the head banging “Sick of Myself”, the sadly sunny “We’re the Same”, the Revolver homage “Lost My Mind”, “Get Older”, “Walk Out”, and the rest, there’s the exceptional audio quality that brings out every nuance of the album’s warm, grungy timbers without any surplus, unintended grit. On their website, Intervention Records boldly declares that even attempting to compare their 100% analog edition of 100% Fun to the brittle, two-dimensional CD from 1995 amounts to “a total farce,” and it ain’t no idle boast.

The seven bonus tracks are included on their own LP as a sort of 12-inch E.P., but Intervention makes the most of the format by having the disc spin at an audiophile-friendly 45 rpms. The songs are good, though only the B-sides “Never Said Goodbye” and “You” are excellent enough to have been contenders for the main attraction. It would have been nice if there had been some annotation indicating the sources of these bonus tracks… I had to perform a bit of internet research to find out which ones were B-sides and which ones were outtakes. Hardcore completists may also lament the absence of a couple of demos that were included on the “We’re the Same” single but are missing here. Still those quibbles are totally minor when the sound, packaging, and music are so unquestionably fab. Keep it up with Altered Beast and Girlfriend, Intervention, and you may have the reissue campaign of the year.

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