Matthew Sweet: “Thought I Knew You”
Last night I saw Matthew Sweet on his 20th anniversary Girlfriend tour — he’s been on tour since last year playing the entire album in concert, track by track, in order. Personally, if I were him, I would be getting pretty burnt out on that, no matter that the 1991 album is one of the greatest power pop albums of all time, and fairly universally agreed upon as the best power pop album of the ’90s. But however many times he might have played it already, he still did it all with lots of energy — it was a really good show. The only time he really let on that maybe he’s ready for the end of the tour was his comment during the encore (of non-Girlfriend songs) that the next song very accurately described him — at which point he launched into “Sick of Myself,” from 1995’s 100% Fun.
Regardless, Girlfriend is a fantastic album, well deserving of a 20th-anniversary celebration. It’s incredibly consistently good, and is probably one of the most successful blendings of the Beatles and Neil Young in existence (not that I have any other albums in mind as contenders, but to me that’s the most accurate description of its sound). And when it came time for me to decide on which song to feature here today, it was quite a struggle. But ultimately I decided to go with one of the many great songs that don’t show up on the radio as frequently as the main singles from the album. Which is how I ended up with “Thought I Knew You,” probably the most acoustic number on the album, with lyrics full of disappointment and subdued anger. It begins with a Beatles “I’m Looking Through You”-type false start (possibly done with a knowing nod, given the similarity in song titles and sound) and features Hollies “Bus Stop” chords — but regardless of its ancestry, it stands on its own as a powerful song that works tremendously well as a focused balance to the more rocking numbers on Girlfriend.