From my archive: Matt Sharp’s first solo album

11 Jun

They say the devil makes work for idle hands and it’s true. I got to go to a private gig played by Matt Sharp, the first bassist in Weezer, and then meet and interview him – and then have drinks with him – because I was bored one night and, in a bet with myself I didn’t expect to come good, I emailed his PR asking for an interview. I thought if I ever got it, I’d sell the interview to Word magazine or NME; once the PR wrote back practically biting my hand off to interview Matt as he was coincidentally going to be in London, well, I couldn’t come up with a convincing enough back-out excuse, so I had to do it. I should have known that perhaps the PR’s keeness for a total music writing novice to have exclusive access to his charge probably indicated the music press’s relative indifference to him. No matter to me though: I was and remain a huge Weezer fan and I am probably a slightly bigger fan of Matt Sharp’s own project, The Rentals – so I was meeting one of my idols and getting an article to sell into the mix. Sadly, Matt is too niche and unknown as a solo artist for the British music press and I couldn’t shift the pitch. But I wrote up the interview for an internet culture magazine called No Innocent Bystanders – sadly long gone now – and here it is. Happy times.

Matt Sharp. Photo courtesy of Honeycut07 from Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/honeycut07/1079612022/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Matt Sharp. Photo courtesy of Honeycut07 from Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/honeycut07/1079612022/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Matt Sharp – Campfire music from a pogoing Falsetto boy

Matt Sharp’s solo album is collection of Nashville, Tennessee-flavoured regrets played out on lap steel and acoustic guitar- but he’s not holding his breath for the masses to understand his transition to grown-up country from Weezer’s pogoing bassist, via the celebratory Moog-bashing Rentals, finds Mel Stern

If they didn’t find him quite so hard to comprehend, Matt Sharp could have been the new poster boy for oldies’ rock mags like Q or Mojo. His current album, a continent away from the celebratory pogoing, football-chanting, sex-show haunting Rentals’ record Seven More Minutes, is the epitome of introspective; at the risk of patronising, it’s a coming of age piece. So quiet and wistful it’s at constant risk of sinking into the ether unless you strain your ears, it could be in the same ballpark as Elliott Smith or Lambchop minus the strings, recorded live from the Yorkshire moors. But the rags won’t let it be – since they can only remember Matt the pogoing, falsetto-screeching one from Weezer, the new one-man-and-his-woes brand isn’t quite Top of the Pops enough. It’s “too peripheral, too obscure, etc” for Word; “not really our bag” is the NME’s verdict. “It’s a songwriter’s album” reckons Matt’s UK PR, who hosted an invite-only gig for hardcore fans at Spitalfield’s tiny Redux last month to launch his European tour with fellow lo-fi’ers, Goldenboy. It’s a fair assessment.

Fresh out of a hideously personal legal battle with the Weezer camp over unpaid royalties in 2001, Matt took flight to a country house in Leipers Fork – a leafy outpost of Nashville, Tennessee soaked in Cherokee bloodlines, with horse farms and a little chicken ‘n’ ribs place by the name of Puckett’s Grocery, namechecked in Matt’s pre-album EP “Puckett’s versus the Country Boy” – to get all up close and personal with himself and “make a very raw record that attempted to tear down the barriers between what I wanted to say and the people that were listening.” At the risk of controversy, this record is to Matt what the under-selling, under-rated genius “Pinkerton” was to Weezer – and many still think Matt’s inclusion on that post-Seven More Minutes record was what made it such an unforgettable lo-fi gem.

Matt Sharp is a record heavily informed by surroundings, themselves informed by a wish to get away and figure out some depressingly familiar vicious circles. “When I came to London to record Seven More Minutes, I thought it wouldn’t take anything more than six weeks. The record label gave me carte blanche – there was no critical year, no deadlines, no restrictions. I was given Madonna’s credit card and the keys to the city with it, like, ‘you wanna make videos? You wanna bring in collaborators? Whaddya wanna do?’ says Matt. “So I was 75% done, and then I found myself slipping deeper and deeper into a kind of chaos that I didn’t expect, and I was suddenly in way over my head. It was more like some epic, like chopping my way out of the jungle in Apocalypse Now, only with a butter knife – overweight, with a big old beard, wanting to put a gun to my head. Afterwards I promised myself never to do that again, so I decided to remove myself to Leipers Fork, thinking this current record would take about three weeks…then over time I found myself in the same position again, the same scenarios again, being in this whirlwind where I couldn’t grasp the last 25%. I didn’t have a clue how to make this record, but I still didn’t think it would take me three freakin’ years.”

OK, so Matt’s solo effort doesn’t have the infectious acoustic hooks that Nordic due Kings of Convenience do, and though he’s clearly been working on some personal demons, he’s not tortured enough to be the next Nick Drake. Neither is he interested enough in raking in the dollars to be hyped like Badly Drawn Boy. And thank Christ for that: so quiet and wistful are daydream tracks like “Visions of Anna” (‘visions of Anna make me cry/the sweetness of our youth has died’), or “All Those Dreams” (‘driving your car for days/for fear of second place’) it’s at constant risk of sinking into the ether unless you strain your ears. Its strength is its sparing use of, well, everything, from lyrics, to melodies, to number of instruments; put it on at 3am after a night out, light a couple of candles and let it wash its way through your head. It’ll be sure to send you into the best night’s sleep you’ve had since you used your mum’s lavender Radox salts in the bath and put on brand new M&S cotton socks.

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One Response to “From my archive: Matt Sharp’s first solo album”

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