Articles by Lopy

Certain Songs #1103: Matthew Sweet – “Winona”

Album: Girlfriend
Year: 1991

Featuring:
Robert Quine – Electric Lead Guitar
Greg Leisz – Pedal Steel Guitar
Fred Maher – Drums

The first of a small cohort of atmospheric songs I’m writing about called “Winona” — weird how that name was on the minds of Gen-X songwriters in the early 1990s — Matthew Sweet’s song is one of the few songs on Girlfriend bereft of any guitar pyrotechnics, but probably the one the most truly features the sadness that underlies the rest of the record.

Almost country-ish in its execution — though Sweet’s vocals are nowhere near that — “Winona” is dominated by Greg Leisz’s pedal steel guitar and an droning two-note acoustic guitar riff from Sweet, which fits perfectly with lyrics like:

I tried to call you
But the line was busy
Were you talking to a friend?
When I tried again much later
I didn’t want to let it ring again

Most of the songs on Girlfriend, go all out with the vocal overdubs, especially on the big choruses, which are often an overdubbed Matthew Sweet being countered or responded to by even more Matthew Sweets, but not so “Winona.” For most of the song, it’s just Sweet alone, with only a harmony overdub on the chorus.

Could you be my
Little movie star?
Could you be my long lost girl?
It’s true that
I don’t really know you
But I’m alone in the world

While the bulk of the song is dominated by the pedal steel guitar, Quine does show up at the very end as support as Sweet laments “I feel alone” a couple of times as the song fades into the sad night.

“Winona”

“Winona” performed live in 2011

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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Certain Songs #1102: Matthew Sweet – “Girlfriend”

Album: Girlfriend
Year: 1991

Featuring:
Robert Quine – Electric Lead Guitar
Greg Leisz – Lap Steel Guitar
Fred Maher – Drums

Along with Steve Wynn and Nicky Hopkins, Robert Quine is one of those guys who is going to show up in more than one artist’s Certain Songs entry.

I’ve already written about his work backing Lou Reed and Lloyd Cole, and will eventually discuss his work with Richard Hell, not to mention his semi-authorized bootlegging of The Velvet Underground.

And so Robert Quine is a key figure in the legend of Girlfriend, making his first appearance like a laser beam on the title track, which is essentially a duel between Quine and drummer Fred Maher, who funks it up through the song, stopping and starting with impunity. Also, that drum sound! Like Maher was all the way on the other side of the room when they recorded the song, because if he got any closer, he’d flatten them like a truck.

Meanwhile, Matthew Sweet — backed by an army of overdubbed Matthew Sweets who interject “ahhhhhh” at surgically precise moments throughout the choruses — asks a very pertinent question.

Don’t you need to
Be back in the arms of a good friend?
Oh, ’cause, honey, believe me
I’d sure love to call you my girlfriend

“Girlfriend” is the loosest song on Girlfriend, all jiggery-pokery Chuck Berry rhythm guitar, collasping drum breaks, and Quine everywhere at once, bouncing from speaker to speaker like a rubber ball in a closet.

And it was loose enough that live, after the second or third guitar break, they’d do one chorus as a slow blues before revving it up for the close.

The combination of all those guitars, hooks and the sheer fun everyone was having — plus a clever, anime-themed video — turned “Girlfriend” into a big Modern Rock hit, which even got some mainstream radio play, though it did nothing on the pop charts.

Official video for “Girlfriend”

“Girlfriend” performed live in 1992 (w/ Robert Quine)

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #1101: Matthew Sweet – “Divine Intervention”

Album: Girlfriend
Year: 1991

Featuring:
Richard Lloyd – Electric Lead Guitar
Ric Menck – Drums

Where do you start with Girlfriend? How out of left field it was? The two ace guitarists that Matthew Sweet recruited? The amazing production? The fact that it was a standout even during my all-time favorite not just year, but season of record-buying, the Autumn of 1991, where it was surrounded with Nevermind, Achtung Baby!, Apocalypse 91, the Illusion twins, Weld, Trompe Le Monde and Bandwagonesque?

Maybe, but let’s start with where Girlfriend starts, the falling from heaven of Richard Lloyd’s guitar and Matthew Sweet’s vocals that crash land into a bass-heavy beat that is equal parts Revolver and Everybody Knows This is Nowhere.

And this is how “Divine Intervention” sets lets us know the production strategy for Girlfriend: every instrument having its own space in the mix. Matthew Sweet’s bass in the center and his rhythm guitar over in one corner are barely on speaking terms i, while Rick Menck’s drums are set up over there in the other corner, along with Sweet’s slowly Velvety piano, all of which leaves plenty of space for Sweet’s vocals.

I don’t know where
I’m gonna live
Don’t know if I’ll find a place
I’d have to think about it some
Amd that I do not wish to face
I guess that I’m counting on his
Divine intervention

It also leaves room for Richard Lloyd’s guitar. Plenty of room. So much room.

I’m trying to remember here, but while I’d purchased both of Lloyd’s solo albums to date, neither one blew me away (Field of Fire, in particular, was sabotaged by terrible 80s production). And so, nothing that Lloyd had done since his amazing solo on the coda of Television’s “Ain’t That Nothing” prepared me for the onslaught of awesomeness that he unleashed on “Divine Intervention.”

Even before Sweet opens his mouth, Lloyd is already swirling and swooping around the song, commenting here and there, but waiting until after the second verse to truly take off after Sweet’s overdubbed “alright, alright,” spitting endless curlicues of notes that only get derailed during a particularly evil backwards tape reverse that takes the place of the third chorus.

After that, it’s just solo after solo, especially after Sweet stops the song again after chanting “When he comes the sun shines” to implore Lloyd to take off with a cheery “here it comes!

And as “Divine Intervention” fades in and out of its fake ending and then real ending, Lloyd remains completely on fire, and if you’d never heard Matthew Sweet or Richard Lloyd before, you could be excused for wanting more, a lot more, like this instant.

“Divine Intervention”

“Divine Intervention” live w/ John Hiatt (and Ivan Julian on lead guitar)

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #495: Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”

geto boys mind
Album: We Can’t Be Stopped
Year: 1991

The key to Gangsta rap’s massive popularity was, of course, larger-than-life celebrations of the dangers and rewards of the gang-banging lifestyle, as millions of teenagers who would freeze from fear from actually having live any of these scenarios got off pretending they were as hard as the guys in the songs.

Kinda like superhero comics. In fact, somebody should chart the rise of the popularity of superhero comics vs. the popularity of gangsta rap. No black superheros? Have you ever heard “Midnight” by Ice-T? That’s some Batman-level shit right there.

Anyways, my problem was that I was slightly older, so while I appreciated the reportage, the violence and misogyny always made me uneasy. So I mostly gravitated to songs that looked at the life from different angles — the devastating “Dead Homiez;” the exhilarating “Gotta Lotta Love” and the paranoiac “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”

Rapping over a icy cool Isaac Hayes sample, the Geto Boys spin verse after verse filled with same themes that powered six seasons of The Sopranos — that a life where you fuck people over on a regular basis, a life where you could be killed at any moment — “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” tells stories that could come right out of a session with Dr. Melfi:

Day by day it’s more impossible to cope
I feel like I’m the one that’s doing dope
Can’t keep a steady hand because I’m nervous
Every Sunday morning I’m in service
Playing for forgiveness
And trying to find an exit out of the business
I know the Lord is looking at me
But yet and still it’s hard for me to feel happy
I often drift while I drive
Havin fatal thoughts of suicide
BANG and get it over with
And then I’m worry-free, but that’s bullshit

In the end, Bushwick Bill is down on his knees pounding the concrete while hallucinating a beatdown, and the song just fades to black, with no relief in sight.

And man, what if David Chase thought to score that last scene of The Sopranos to “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” instead of that fucking Journey song? Maybe it would have been too on the nose — as we see all of those folks at the diner who might or might not be ready to kill him — but it would be kind of cool to see how that scene would play.

That said, Tony Soprano wouldn’t be caught dead listening to this song,

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #495: Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”

geto boys mind
Album: We Can’t Be Stopped
Year: 1991

The key to Gangsta rap’s massive popularity was, of course, larger-than-life celebrations of the dangers and rewards of the gang-banging lifestyle, as millions of teenagers who would freeze from fear from actually having live any of these scenarios got off pretending they were as hard as the guys in the songs.

Kinda like superhero comics. In fact, somebody should chart the rise of the popularity of superhero comics vs. the popularity of gangsta rap. No black superheros? Have you ever heard “Midnight” by Ice-T? That’s some Batman-level shit right there.

Anyways, my problem was that I was slightly older, so while I appreciated the reportage, the violence and misogyny always made me uneasy. So I mostly gravitated to songs that looked at the life from different angles — the devastating “Dead Homiez;” the exhilarating “Gotta Lotta Love” and the paranoiac “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”

Rapping over a icy cool Isaac Hayes sample, the Geto Boys spin verse after verse filled with same themes that powered six seasons of The Sopranos — that a life where you fuck people over on a regular basis, a life where you could be killed at any moment — “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” tells stories that could come right out of a session with Dr. Melfi:

Day by day it’s more impossible to cope
I feel like I’m the one that’s doing dope
Can’t keep a steady hand because I’m nervous
Every Sunday morning I’m in service
Playing for forgiveness
And trying to find an exit out of the business
I know the Lord is looking at me
But yet and still it’s hard for me to feel happy
I often drift while I drive
Havin fatal thoughts of suicide
BANG and get it over with
And then I’m worry-free, but that’s bullshit

In the end, Bushwick Bill is down on his knees pounding the concrete while hallucinating a beatdown, and the song just fades to black, with no relief in sight.

And man, what if David Chase thought to score that last scene of The Sopranos to “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” instead of that fucking Journey song? Maybe it would have been too on the nose — as we see all of those folks at the diner who might or might not be ready to kill him — but it would be kind of cool to see how that scene would play.

That said, Tony Soprano wouldn’t be caught dead listening to this song,

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page