Matthew Sweet Damns the Machine

Article excerpt

"I realized early on how much impact a weird bass note could have when placed with a normal chord," observes Matthew Sweet, who plays bass and rhythm guitar. "It helps define the song and how the chords move around." A perfect example is "Easy," a track from Sweet's 1989 A&M album Earth, where quirky bass and guitar interplay enforces the intended emotional pull. These days, however, the 28-year-old says it's his guitar playing that "rhythmically underscores certain words and phrases in a way I couldn't do on bass without altering the song's momentum."

A pair of tracks from his new Zoo album Altered Beast shows how guitar lines have eclipsed bass lines in Sweet's writing. On "Knowing People," his comping on a Gibson Hummingbird reissue sets up the "loud and harshly humorous" leads eventually played by Richard Lloyd. Then, on "Dinosaur Act," chromatic open-G runs on a split-fretboard Ferrington support the tounge-in-cheek swipes at Sweet's newfound star status after the success of 1991's catchy, desirable Girlfriend.

Sweet has determined that the backbone of his songs is the back-beat. …