Matthew Sweet had already released two mediocre pop albums by the time he recorded Girlfriend. It isn't surprising to learn that the album was dismissed by several record labels before finding a home at Zoo Records through BMG. Though it's readily apparent listening to any of Girlfriend's 15 tracks that there's something happening here that Sweet had never uncovered before, who's to say the executives at these labels even listened to the tapes. Besides, album credits that include guitarists Richard Lloyd and Robert Quine may excite the average rock geek, but they're no Desmond Child.
For which we can be grateful. Sweet himself has never duplicated the artistic success of Girlfriend. He followed it with the ornate and unfocused Altered Beast, and only 100% Fun came close to these glory days. But we should all be so lucky as to make even one album that deserves to be remembered 15 years later, as Girlfriend receives the 'Legacyâ?� treatment and is expanded to include three additional demos and a second CD of live cuts and acoustic demos that only saw release as the limited-edition promotional issue Goodfriend.
The album itself holds up well after all this time. At 15 cuts, it's too long, but the core resonates with dynamics. From the hard stereo mix, meant to recall the Beatles' Revolver, with its sharp guitars slicing through the rhythm section from one speaker to Sweet's multitracked harmonies softening the tension throughout, Girlfriend successfully merged Sweet's soft-rock, singer-songwriterisms with the jagged edge of his guitarists' post-punk, no-wave apocalypse. If this sounds like overstatement, take a listen to the guitar solo that cuts through 'You Don't Love Me,â?� arguably the album's centerpiece. Quine's guitar comes storming in like the apocalypse. Or test the cauldron of 'Day for Night,â?� where Sweet's voice eventually gives way to an absolutely brutal guitar beating.
The additions are worth checking out. The unadorned BBC version of 'Someone To Pull the Triggerâ?� has a darkness to it, while acoustic renditions of John Lennon's 'Isolationâ?� and Sweet's 'Winona,â?� a tribute to the worst female actress of her generation (love isn't just blind, it can be complete denial), suggest a pop prodigy who sadly fell a bit short over the next decade.