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Modern Art

20 customer reviews

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Modern Art (Bonus Track Version)
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Audio CD, September 27, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Throughout a career that stretches back to the mid-'80s, Matthew Sweet has never followed trends, though his landmark 1991 album Girlfriend was responsible for starting one; in fact, many critics note that most power pop records made during the '90s owe a tremendous debt to Sweet. Two decades after the release of that iconic album, Sweet has once again swung for the fences and connected with the boldly experimental, yet deeply personal Modern Art.

Defiantly unorthodox, but often playfully so, Modern Art features 12 new compositions of Sweet's trademark wistful, yearning pop that recall some of Sweet s touchstones: the Beatles, Beach Boys and Big Star. ''She Walks the Night'' is reminiscent of earlyperiod Byrds, while ''Ladyfingers'' stomps along with the authority of T. Rex. Other standout tracks include the swirling, psychedelic ''Oh, Oldendaze!,'' the ruggedly assertive ''Late Nights With the Power Pop,'' the acerbically witty ''Evil By Design, Goodbye Nature'' and the sweetly soulful ''Modern Art.''

Longtime musical cohort Ric Menck (Velvet Crush) does all the drumming on the album (except for ''Ivory Tower,'' which is built on a random drum pattern supplied by Sweet's friend, actor/musician Fred Armisen). Dennis Taylor s deft and urgent guitar lines serve as a running commentary to Sweet s introspective singing. Finished by mastering engineer Glenn Schick, Modern Art promises to be another trend-setting release by Sweet.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Oh, Oldendaze!
  2. Ivory Tower
  3. She Walks The Night
  4. When Love Lets Go I m Falling
  5. Ladyfingers
  6. A little death
  7. Late Nights With The Power Pop
  8. Baltimore
  9. My Ass Is Grass
  10. December Dark
  11. Modern Art
  12. Sleeping

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 27, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Missing Piece
  • ASIN: B005FG3BTQ
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,905 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Thomas R. Cravens on January 6, 2012
Format: MP3 Music
Those of you that don't "get" this album need to understand that this isn't Matthew Sweet in his usual "hooky, power-pop, formulaic arrangements" form. The title itself should clue you in. This album is intended to be a bit abstract, with unusual arrangements, melodies and arrangements. It isn't intended to catch your ear on first listen. In short: it's an experimental record.

If you're looking for yet another version of "Girlfriend" you will be sorely disappointed. However, these songs reveal new layers of richness on each play and rewards those with the patience to really listen (more than once). There is definitely a trend toward melancholy here (When Love Lets Go, A Little Death, Modern Art), but it's also not without it's share of great rockers (Ladyfingers, Late Nights With The Power Pop, and the Byrds-like, She Walks The Night).

Granted, some of the experiments here don't always pay off, but what we have here is a mostly wonderful album for those with an appreciation for the abstract in music and the patience to give it a real listen.

By the way, if you think 100% was the last good Matthew Sweet album, you should probably stay away or buy the deluxe edition of Girlfriend instead.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kevin S. Danahy on October 5, 2011
Format: Audio CD
I find all these negative reviews perplexing. I just don't hear it...and I'm not someone who tolerates musicians when they get too self indulgent. Sure there is some experimentation going on here, but I find it makes the album more interesting when listened to as a whole. Some have suggested that all the songs are weak and not memorable. As far as I'm concerned this just isn't the case. Several songs are instantly enjoyable. She Walks the Night, Oh Oldenaze, When Love Lets Go I'm Falling, Modern Art, Ladyfingers, Baltimore are songs that you don't have to struggle to like. They don't need to grow on you. They jump out as strong songs, performed interestingly with cool melodies and nice harmonies. The album has its own sound. It's not Girlfriend, 100% Fun, Altered Beast or In Reverse. It's Modern Art -- a strong new album with a solid song set and touches of experimental production. The production and arrangments are akin to the loose expirmental techniques the beatles and beach boys invented back in 1967/68 that were later used by groups like XTC. There's no reason to shy away from catchy and interesting music like this.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By tetsuojin on November 27, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Like many others, I'm considered a passionate Matthew Sweet enthusiast and own all of his albums. I considered him a power pop genius and superb song smith whose melodies can be measured with the best of them, even the Beatles. The release of a new Matthew Sweet album is always an event for me; I'll end up playing his albums throughout each 2-3 year period between albums. IMHO, He has never failed to deliver a great album...until now.

I understand the need for artists to evolve and mix things around so that material doesn't seem stagnant/boring and that there is artistic growth. However, Modern Art, although a viable musical experiment, just doesn't work. It doesn't feel genuine or honest. It seems as if he decided to go into the studio and jam with a few hooks and let the song meander into whatever. Call it free form musical structure, but I think it just an unlistenable mess. There is definitely potential in some of these songs, with a few strong melodies, but unfortunately, he doesn't carry them into fruition and instead, they evolve into a meandering mess. Other Matthew Sweet fans may argue that listeners just don't get Modern Art, due to their absence of musical maturity; personally, I don't buy that notion. I heard the same arguments by fervent fans over REM albums like Up, Adventures in HiFi and Around the Sun, and guess what? Those albums are unilaterally considered REM's worst albums. And unfortunately, that's what we have here, folks: Matthew's worst album by far. I hope he doesn't end up in 4 album funk like REM and slowly fade away from even his most loyal followers.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Roger R. Stoffel on December 17, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Unfortunately there were no soundbites posted on Amazon or AMG when I bought this. As a huge power pop fan since the mid 60's, and a M. Sweet fan since his first album (although his later releases have been hit or miss for me), I couldn't agree more with the review of "tetsuojin" here. This will be Sweet's first release that I am dumping from my collection; he sounds more like Neil Young's really strange stuff (and I am a fan of much of Young's music also). You might really like this album...just listen to the soundbites first!
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By GFX on October 7, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Matthew Sweet is the guy who turned me onto the alternative rock sound back in the 90's with an appearance on Allan Havey's Night After Night on Comedy Network. The pop and rock with Anime visuals of Girlfriend go me hooked and my admiration of his music started there... it doesn't end here, but maybe Mr Sweet and I need musical counseling.

Some albums take me a while to like (such as Blue Skies On Mars) and some I loved instantly (100% Fun), Modern Art on first blush is one I am going to have trouble really liking. The production and effort put forth by Mr Sweet feels more like a very polished demo recording. Some of this might be the barebones style of the album, not many hands on deck.

As for the sound, Modern Art is mostly, to me, more of a slightly more rock version of Gordon Lightfoot. I think Sunshine Lies sort of pointed the way here, but I was hoping Mr Sweet would snap back to a sound I like more. Whereas past efforts have always bridged that rift between rock and pop it feels like a mix between pop and 70's easy listening. There is not a track after giving a once over that I really remember and I might not put this album on full or exclusive rotation in my library (I am old fashioned in that I do like listening to full albums on a regular basis).

The quality of production is top notch and sports a different sound, which after referring to the liner notes is it was digital to analog back to digital. I am not sure if this makes Modern Art better, but it has a slightly different sound which I can appreciate.

All said and done I am not sure who this album is for, is it going to attract new listeners? No, it is not that good or distinctive of an album. Is it going to make long term fans of Matthew Sweet fans happy? Speaking for myself on this mark, no. Is it a bad album? No... but it is one that leaves me confused and disappointed. I wish I could like it more, but Modern Art is an album that doesn't return the favor.
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