Better Than Ever

Girlfriend: Legacy Edition (Legacy)
Matthew Sweet

By Cricket Bidwell

These days, it seems like everyone and their mother is re-mastering, re-releasing and re-issuing whatever they can get their hands on, whether it be some piddly pseudo-rock dreck or another edition of a lame movie that wasn't any good in the first place.

Sometimes, though, somebody gets it right - in this case, an expanded CD set of Matthew Sweet's perfect pop masterpiece, 1991's critically-acclaimed Girlfriend. The re-mastered album is packaged here with Goodfriend: Another Take on Girlfriend - a well-traveled bootleg that came out about a year after Girlfriend. It also features demo-version bonus tracks of "Goodfriend," "Superdeformed" and "Teenage Female," which originally appeared on Girlfriend: The Superdeformed CD (or EP, if you managed to snag the rare red vinyl 7 inch).

Bottom line, this set is essential to understanding and appreciating Sweet's pop genius.

Going through the break-up of his marriage and meeting his future wife in the same time period gave Sweet a heap of emotion from which to draw inspiration for this album and it easily eclipsed his first two releases, Inside and Earth, neither of which seemed to match the energy, intensity or honesty that abounds in Girlfriend. But the release of Girlfriend was just on the heels of Nirvana's Nevermind, which, with its host of emotion and rebellion, may have overshadowed sweet's pop perfection.

Essentially, music was due for a shakeup and it got it. Personally, I wish Sweet had gotten there first. His insightful, intelligently written lyrics about both heartbreak and pure happiness add up to an engaging, accessible soundtrack to life. While the songs were re-mastered for this set, it wasn't at all necessary to change a thing - Sweet's album was a perfect release in 1991 and remains fresh to this day.

And although I am grateful to have the previously unreleased Goodfriend and Superdeformed tracks now, it's the original 15 songs that comprised Girlfriend that make this set truly shine - rediscovering this album is the most fun I've had all week.

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