Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Matthew Sweet - 100% Fun [Vinyl Reissue] (Album Review)

A couple of years ago, Intervention Records crafted exceptional reissues of Everclear’s second and third albums (Sparkle and Fade and So Much For The Afterglow), proving that they not only understand that there is a strong market for high quality ‘90s vinyl reissues but that they can also deliver them as a refreshingly stellar product that goes beyond a simple repress. While Intervention often handles a wide variety of genres and eras, they’re readying another set of ‘90s classics to be rolled out over the next few months with their re-release of four Matthew Sweet albums: Girlfriend (1991), Altered Beast (1993), Son of Altered Beast (1994), and 100% Fun (1995). These reissues have all been approved by Sweet himself, are presented in expanded edition double LP format, and are pressed on 180-gram black vinyl.

The first reissue out of the gate is 100% Fun, Sweet’s highest charting album that is best known for its lead-off single “Sick of Myself” (which peaked at #2, also giving Sweet his highest chart performance for a single). Produced by Brendan O’Brien and originally released on vinyl on February 28, 1995 (with the CD version coming out a couple weeks later), 100% Fun featured Sweet at the top of his power pop game. Eschewing the dour, angst-fueled vibes of the second-wave commercialized alt-rock copycats that saturated mid-‘90s radio, Sweet’s nuanced melodic range and sugary pop hooks helped set him apart from the majority of what was categorized as alternative music at the time. The insanely catchy “Sick of Myself” made a huge impact on radio and MTV and Sweet rounded out a busy 1995 with a nice trio of soundtrack appearances (National Lampoon’s Senior Trip, Ace Venture: When Nature Calls, and The Babysitter’s Club) and a memorable slot on the Saturday Morning: Cartoon’s Greatest Hits compilation with his perfectly paired “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” cover.

Intervention’s reissue of Sweet’s 100% Fun has been masterfully reframed, both sonically and visually. For starters, the album’s 12 songs (plus the 7 bonus tracks) have been fully mastered from the original analog master tapes and are presented on “ultra quiet” 180-gram vinyl. The pressings are super crisp and the quality of the mix seems to heighten as the volume increases. While some vinyl records are known to lose some warmth at higher volumes, both discs of 100% Fun welcome the challenge and shine out brighter the louder you play them. Even in some of the album’s more delicate moments – the Beach Boys inspired harmonic choral outro of “Not When I Need It,” the breathy organ-drum interplay of “Everything Changes” – the inherent surface noise is almost non-existent. Of course, in its most raw and raucous moments – the vibrant guitar squeals of “Sick of Myself,” the psych-blues howl of “Giving It Back,” the groovy growl of “Super Baby” – finds the highs and lows screaming off the wax in the most satisfying ways.

Packaging-wise, the double disc album comes in a fantastic gatefold and feels incredibly durable. The artwork is faithful to the original album (save for the addition of the bonus tracks listed on the back jacket) and features a striking laminate sheen that really brings a new life to the vintage childhood photo of Sweet that envelopes the cover. The “Old Style” gatefold was handled by the famed Stoughton Printing and the impressive quality and attention to detail in the double-pocket jacket mimics the same craftsmanship that is present in the songs. Both aspects being handled so attentively and with such finesse by Intervention make this reissue a true audio-visual feast.

On top of the superb audio and visual aspects of this 100% Fun reissue, Sweet has also included seven outtake bonus tracks that were a part of the original 100% Fun master tapes. Some of them have found their way onto previous releases (“Sense of Adventure” and “Slowly” were bonus tracks on the Japanese import CD, “Never Said Goodbye” was the b-side to the “Sick of Myself” CD/cassette single, “You” was the fourth song on the “We’re The Same” 4-track CD single) and some of them have never been released at all. Either way, all seven tracks are presented in this setting on vinyl for the first time and make up the entirety of the second vinyl disc.

Bonus Tracks:
“Sense of Adventure”
“Breaks My Heart”
“Walk Out” (Alternate Mix)
“Never Said Goodbye”
“Our Song”

The artist-approved expanded edition reissue of 100% Fun can be ordered directly from Intervention Records on vinyl or CD here: http://www.interventionrecords.com/artists/matthew-sweet/

Additionally, you can also pre-order the entire 4-album bundle from Intervention with 100% Fun shipping now, Altered Beast shipping in August, Son of Altered Beast (available for the first time ever on vinyl) shipping in September, and Girlfriend shipping in November.

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