According to science, the most powerful sense we have is our sense of smell. I know every time I smell maple syrup and sausage, I’m immediately thrust back to my childhood and weekly breakfasts at the VA hall with my grandfather. What does that have to do with Matthew Sweet’s new album, Tomorrow Forever? When I heard the very first notes from his guitar at the beginning of this album, I could’ve told you exactly who it was without ever knowing where the full-length came from. Our sense of hearing and the individuality of certain sounds can be just as powerful of a marker for a particular musician as the sense of smell is to our past.
While I certainly don’t consider myself an aficionado of guitarists, I think it’s particularly rare for one to be immediately recognizable through a single note. Prince, Slash, and Tom Morello are among those rare few, and Matthew Sweet absolutely belongs to that incredibly gifted group.
Now, on to the album!
Tomorrow Forever touches on many of Sweet’s familiar tones with flavors of country, folk, blues, and good, solid rock and roll. For those fans from back in the days of Girlfriend and 100% Fun, this new release harkens back to those days briefly, but Tomorrow Forever has a grittier edge to it. There’s a cut to Sweet’s delivery, a passion bordering on animosity. A man walks up to a small stage in the back of a local dive bar, no one’s paying attention and no one expects anything, but from the first lick, the crowd knows who is in charge here.
The opening chords of “Trick” have the Sweet signature sound; it brings back touches of “Sick of Myself” from 100% Fun. He plays in the blues style of greats like B.B. King, always giving his guitar its own space to sing and tell the story without covering it over with lyrics. Sweet’s voice and his guitar are a duet unto themselves.
“Pretty Please” is one of the strongest tracks, with traces of Tom Petty and Bob Dylan weaved into the fold, while “Come Correct” is another of my favorites – it’s unusual to find such a strong track buried so far towards the back of the album. It’s rough and tumble, drawing a line in the audio sand and warning you that you’re too damn close. “Entangled,” “Bittersweet,” and “Hello” display the harmonies that his fans have come to know him for. The last of those three begins with deep, dark piano overtones and a discordant touch but slides into a beautiful rhythm with a distinct Joe Jackson quality to it.
Ushering the listener out is “End Is Near,” an atmospheric anthem bringing up visions of sitting under an unending blanket of stars realizing you are a profoundly small cog in the immense machine of the universe. It’s not the end of everything, just the end of this chapter for the listener and Matthew Sweet.
Tomorrow Forever refuses to clone previous works, standing tall as a strong statement of performance, power, and presence. This is a true musician proving once again he’s got plenty more to say, and you’d better listen up.
Tomorrow Forever will be released tomorrow, June 16, 2017 on CD and digital formats; the vinyl edition hits shelves June 30.