Lyrically blunt and instrumentally bold
Matthew Sweet has released his 15th studio album Catspaw, and though it may be a bit melancholic for Sweet, the record remains true to his vivacious power-pop style. With Ric Menck on drums, Sweet handles lead guitar on his own for the first time, relying on previous collaborations for inspiration. Lyrically blunt and instrumentally bold, the pair isn’t shy about pouring their heart and soul into each song. With the primary motif centered around the unexpected “pounces” of life, Sweet’s forceful delivery results in an electrical journey from track to track.
One of the most remarkable elements of Catspaw is the bass guitar, which is expertly implemented in nearly every song on the album. Demonstrative of significant technical skill, the heavy bass creates an authoritative feeling without dominating the entire song. With a strong presence in the intro, “Best Of Me” features one of the strongest basslines in the album, exuding raw energy in every beat. Of course, the bass isn’t the only striking component of Catspaw, as Sweet’s acrobatic guitar work certainly proved he could hold his own in a lead role. “Blown Away” instantly features a hypnotic guitar riff, clearly intuitively inspired as it freely flows throughout the song. Though the riffs are intense, they have a surprising grace alongside the drums, which also hold down most of the record. From the upbeat tempo of “At A Loss,” to the slower “Come Home,” the drums serve as a focal point in every track. Sounding similar to what would play at an old-school prom, the drums certainly define Sweet’s music as power-pop-punk.
The powerful instrumentation energizes the album’s candid lyrics, bringing the entire record to the next level. In “Challenge The Gods,” Sweet seemingly plays off the concept of catspaw, optimistically singing to “rise above take your place/ punch the world in the face/ use your time to rise above.” Collectively this creates quite an empowering song, though there is certainly a dynamic range of styles present in the album. For instance in “Drifting,” Sweet sings “listen and you will hear/ falling in love with nature’s voice/ whispering as you drift/ back into flight,” inspiring a more thoughtful, peaceful sentiment within the listener. The shift in intensity is certainly welcome as it makes for a far more interesting album.
Overall, Catspaw is an awesome album, especially considering Sweet’s impressive guitar skills. Without any formal training, Sweet managed to give an acrobatic performance to keep the record fresh and inspired. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Sweet pours his wisdom and expertise into Catspaw, making it an awesome album to kick off 2021 with.