Matthew Sweet Living Things

Lately, Matthew Sweet has had a run of bad luck. His last couple of records (including one as part of "supergroup” the Thorns) were not well received, but he might finally be turning the corner. A Japan-only release (Kimi Ga Suki) received such good reviews from fans and critics alike that it was given a North American release too, and now it is joined by another album accompanied by high expectations. Living Things is a patchy affair with some really good songs and some really average songs filling in the spaces between the good ones. The best songs wouldn’t sound out of place on his much-maligned album In Reverse, with the sort of lushness that comes from a contribution by Van Dyke Parks. Yet for every classic song such as "In My Tree,” there’s a complete misfire like quirky throwaway "Cats vs. Dogs.” Then there’s a few inexplicable production decisions like the addition of steel drums to opener "The Big Cats Of Shambala,” which sound awkward and ruin a perfectly good song. While Living Things is a frustrating record, Matthew Sweet really does seem incapable of recording a mediocre album. But just like Velvet Crush (who back him both in the studio and on tour), Sweet continues to make good albums that lack a certain something to make them great. (RCAM)