After giving Matthew Sweet‘s Japan-only release a listen, there’s bound to
be one big question on everyone’s mind.
Okay, maybe two.
The first one would probably be “What does ‘Kimi Ga Suki‘ mean?” Roughly translated, it’s something like “You’re always cheerful” or “You’re so lively.” But after that trifle, the second question would inevitably be “Why the hell didn’t he release this in the States?” There probably isn’t a sensible answer for that one.
Oh yeah, sure there’s a novelty in being big in Japan, but Kimi—arguably on par with 100% Fun—could have probably been big here. At the very least it would be better than The Thorns.
Supposedly written and recorded in a week, Kimi puts Sweet’s ability to craft an endearing hook on display. Gone are the Brian Wilson and Phil Spector soundscapes of the good-but-over-produced In Reverse and distant is the recorded-in-a-cardboard-box feel of Blue Sky on Mars. Kimi is raw Sweet songwriting with all the power pop one would expect of him. It is something of a melancholia-lite release without the doleful drone of songs like “Someone to Pull the Trigger,” but the absence of the super-sad stuff is by no means a fault against Kimi—the album does have its fair share of bittersweetness.
Perhaps one of the reasons Kimi succeeds is that the album marks the reconciliation of the Girlfriend line-up: Rik Menck on drums, Richard Lloyd filling in lead-guitar duties, Greg Leisz on slide-guitar. The good friends from Girlfriend bring a certain livelier, energetic sound to Kimi that was lacking from Blue Sky and In Reverse.
That air of familiarity does infect some of the songs, but it’s in no way a detrimental contagion. Parallels can be drawn between “Morning Song” and “Now When I Need it.” Similarly, “I Love You” shares the creeping crawl of “Knowing People” except the loathing is replaced with regret and longing. The best song on the album, “I Don’t Want to Know,” bounces about while Sweet harmonizes, “And if I object to having to choose / With nothing to lose / I still feel burned / Like everything I need to get through the day / I’m hiding my love away.” “Wait,” however, lingers long in the memory as Sweet’s layered voices admit that things have changed and it seems like love’s over, but he’s holding out until he knows what’s inside of you.
Awww, Matthew, you’re always so cheerful.
Label: RCAM/Cutting Edge