Old School Reviews: Matt Sharp – Matt Sharp

13 08 2007

by mr. travis

As a lead in to the upcoming August 14th street release of the new Rentals E.P., The Last Little Life, Cacophony looks back at some of the major works featuring Rentals frontman Matt Sharp. Part VI takes us back to 2004 with his second solo record, and first full length, the eponymous Matt Sharp.

Matt Sharp - S/T

Artist: Matt Sharp
Album: Matt Sharp
Label: In Music We Trust
Release Date: March 18, 2004

At the beginning of 2004, Weezer fans (and music fans who were paying attention) were mumbling with excitement after their ex-bassist Matt Sharp invited Rivers Cuomo onstage at an acoustic show at Cal State Fullerton to perform “Mrs. Young,” “The Sweater Song,” and “Buddy Holly,” a seemingly impromptu performance that signified an ending to years of bad blood between the two. This, coupled with an interview with Sharp in Rolling Stone where he stated that he and Cuomo had recorded 15 to 16 songs together brought hope to at least a new collaboration, if not a reintroduction of Sharp into the Weezer fold.

In the end, neither happened. Sharp, citing “their own brand of dysfunction,” ended up releasing a solo full length, while Cuomo returned to Weezer, who, in 2005, unleashed the sub par monstrosity, Make Believe on the world. To look at the two now, it’s obvious Sharp made the right move, his lyrics and overall songwriting are miles ahead of what Cuomo churns out, bringing to light even more of the suspicions that Sharp was the brains behind the first two Weezer releases. Such suspicions are irrelevant, what matters is that Cuomo and Sharp together made two of the best releases in their genre, apart, they can’t quite pull it together as Sharp’s self-titled solo album reveals.

Expanding upon the lazy California country sound of the Puckett Vs the Country Boy E.P., Sharp puts on an impressive show, yet it’s still missing something. Part of the problem is that the album sounds very monotone, similar to the failings of the first Rentals album. Sure, he puts in “Goodbye West Coast,” the best song on the E.P. as well as one of the best of his songwriting career, but it only serves to bring out the flaws of the album. There’s nothing else here that can touch the stark simplicity of that number, both in the imagery it invokes, as well as the sadness that it conveys. But, the good that is here, is quite good, giving hope to the future of Sharp’s career, whatever that may be. The country sound of the album never feels false, it’s been lived in, as anyone following Sharp can attest to, the man once had it all, then lost it in a quick instance, “Just like Movie Stars” with its beautiful guitar lines, takes this theme and runs with it, while “Thoughts From a Slow Train” is a bittersweet song of leaving it all behind.

One has to give Sharp credit for expanding his sound, not just in the instrumentation but his vocals as well. He’s learned to make the most of his vocal limits, turning in an album that seeps with emotion without succumbing to the traps of such a venture. It gives hope that Sharp may be the one member of the original Weezer quartet to pull something out that is equal to those albums. If Rivers Cuomo were as smart as his Harvard credentials say he is, he would bring Sharp back into the fold, but, unfortunately, ego and hubris seem to keep that from happening. Instead, Sharp continues to build a body of work that is impressive in it scope and admirable in its ambition, something that Cuomo and Weezer have failed at considerably since their rebirth.

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