Certain Songs #1113: Matthew Sweet – “Millennium Blues”

Album: In Reverse
Year: 1999

Featuring:
Greg Leisz – Electric Guitar
Bruce Fowler – Reverse Trombone
Walt Fowler – Reverse Trumpet
Greg Kurstin – Organ
Ric Menck – Drums

After killing it in the first part of the 1990s with the 1-2-3 punch of Girlfriend, Altered Beast & 100% Fun, Matthew Sweet stumbled for with 1997’s Blue Sky on Mars, which replaced Robert Quine and Richard Lloyd with loads and loads of synthesizers, which was of course a good idea in terms of stretching out, but I didn’t think the songs were quite there to make up for the loss of the fun guitars.

And while the crazy guitars were still mostly MIA from 1999’s In Reverse, Sweet was taking even more risks, ditching the synths for baroque chamber pop psychedelia, which somehow turned it into a record that I wildly overrated at the time, mostly on account of its still stellar opening track, “Millennium Blues.”

If I loved “Smog Moon” because it somehow captured the feeling discovering a new city, then I loved “Millennium Blues” because it captured the the feeling of going from one millennium to another at what might be the centerpoint of your life. 1999 was a weird time, and with backwards trumpets and trombones from former Zappa & Beefheart sidemen Bruce and Walt Fowler, “Millennium Blues” perfectly captured that weirdness.

Millennium blues
Lived half in one and half in the other
They say it’s not you anymore

And so, while pondering the weirdness of straddling millennia, “Millennium Blues” also becomes a song about aging, something that becomes formal as the whole song comes to almost a stop so he can rage against the flow of time.

Part of me wants to stay in the middle
Part of me wants to lose control

Stay in the middle. Like that’s going to happen. I was 37 when the 1900s tripped into the 2000s, and I’ve now lived half of that again, and so you can imagine how much anxiety about aging I have these days (or anxiety about everything, really), but for the three minutes that “Millennium Blues” is playing, that anxiety goes away.

Meanwhile, as we’ve progressed into this new millennium, Matthew Sweet has continued to do good work, most notably in 2003’s thank-you note to Japan Kimi Ga Suki*Raifu, 2008’s let’s-get-the-gang-back-together Sunshine Lies and 2017’s kickstarted Tomorrow Forever. All three of these records have great songs — “Dead Smile,” “Love is Gone,” “Let’s Love” and “Trick,” to just name a few — that feature all of Sweet’s eternal and ongoing strengths, so if you gave up at any point, you should check them out.

“Millennium Blues”

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