Certain Songs #1109: Matthew Sweet – “Speed of Light”

B-side, 1993

Featuring:
Robert Quine – Lead Guitar
Byron Berline – Fiddle
Greg Leisz – National Duolian
Fred Maher – Drums

I don’t recall exactly when it was that I came across the treasure trove of Matthew Sweet outtakes and b-sides from the 1990s. Probably at the record swaps at USF in the late 1990s, when I came across a great live recording from 1993 called Shape Shifter and later on a disc of somewhat muddy Girlfriend outtakes called Supervixen.

At some point, I read on the internets that Matthew Sweet had recorded loads and loads of songs for Altered Beast, and they were available on a pair of discs called Superdeformed, and while I don’t think I bought those discs, I was able to find them, along with tons of outtakes and b-sides from 100% Fun and Blue Sky on Mars, which effectively doubled the amount of classic period Matthew Sweet in my possession.

You guys, if you like Matthew Sweet, you should probably seek this stuff out — unless he announces plans for a 25th anniversary edition of Altered Beast — because what it seems to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the “problem” with Altered Beast wasn’t so much the songs he’d written for it, but the more Dylanesque issue of not choosing the best songs for it.

Songs like “Put It Together,” “Idiot Child,” and “Girls” were as good as anything on the album, and “Speed of Light,” which was recorded as the b-side of “Time Capsule,” might even have been the best song from the entire set.

But you still had a long way to go
(Long way to go)
To the dawn
That was threatening never would show
(Never would show)
The pain has become too much
The speed of light just isn’t fast enough

Mixing and matching Greg Leisz’s steel guitar and Byron Berline’s fiddle with Robert Quine’s leads poking out over at the edge of the song, “Speed of Light” ached like the memory of a love gone wrong, especially as Sweet melted into “lonnnnnnng way to go.”

It’s possible that a version of Altered Beast that was 12 songs instead of 15 and featured both “This Moment” and “Speed of Light” might have struck me as a more worthy follow-up to Girlfriend, or maybe it still would have taken me years suss it all out.

“Speed of Light”

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