Sunday, January 11, 2009

I've Been Waiting - Matthew Sweet

Matthew Sweet’s third and breakthrough album from 1991, Girlfriend, is a glorious feedback-drenched album that rocks, although it could have been shorter by a third and subsequently doubled its punch. Hard-edged songs like “Divine Intervention” and the title song are rife with feedback and noise, but they play second fiddle to Sweet’s power pop infatuations and pure, almost boyish voice. The result is not as perfect as, say, another rock icon’s twee voice echoing against powerhouse rockers like “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Hey Hey My My (Into The Black).” But Neil Young succeeded in this realm in large part because he’d been working at it for decades; Girlfriend is an anomaly in Sweet’s pop repertoire, albeit a marvelous one.

So it makes sense that “I’ve Been Waiting” – pure, unironic, effusive summertime bubblegum celebrating the joys of teenage puppy love – is the unequivocal highlight of Girlfriend. Sweet wears his '60s and '70s influences on his sleeve; this song would sound perfectly at home in one of Big Star’s albums, and the chiming, freely interweaving guitars are channeled straight from Roger McGuinn's 12-string guitar licks. Aside from two bridges that give the song a harder edge and help ground it in the rest of Girlfriend's buzz, "I've Been Waiting" is a power pop creamsicle.

Imagine your heart fluttering as your high school crush tells you, without pretense or guile,“I didn’t think I’d find you perfect in so many ways.” Now imagine that set to one of the happiest pop melodies in existence. (Seriously – it rivals anything Alex Chilton, Roger McGuinn, or even Brian Wilson ever did.) On a subsequent verse, Sweet softly coos, “Secret on your lips/That nobody knows/Gentle in your eyes,” then exclaims “You can wear my clothes!” as if he’s had a life-changing epiphany. The innocence in his voice (perfectly matched to the song, by the way) is completely disarming.

All in all, "I've Been Waiting" is a perfect pop confection that never got its due as a single, but that only adds to its charm; stumble across this, and you've got the thrill of discovering long-buried treasure.

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