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UPDATED 03/27/1995 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/27/1995 at 01:00 AM EST

>Matthew Sweet

THE KEY BENEATH THE SWEET SURFACE

WHEN THE SMOKE OF SUDDEN STARDOM cleared for Matthew Sweet in 1993, he and his second wife, Lisa, found themselves in L.A. Both Nebraska natives, they had been living near Princeton, N.J., until Sweet's 1991 Girlfriend (his third album, recorded in '90) belatedly ignited his career. One week after the Girlfriend tour, he dived into the studio to "get out my demons" on the warped and driven follow-up, Altered Beast. To finish it, he and Lisa moved to L.A.

"It was kind of a crazy thing to do," Sweet admits. "But my label is based there. And it turns out we've really liked being there. I'm very interested in movies, and I've met people involved in that." Lisa is tutoring kids on the Warner Bros, lot, and the expatriate Husker ("In Scottsbluff, where Lisa's from, you can still see the ruts where the wagon wheels dug into the stone of the Oregon Trail") seems at home.

"This album felt more direct, spontaneous and even effortless than Altered Beast," says Sweet, 30. "It's a good time for concise, melodic, pop-y songs. And I was in a good mood for that."

Sweet laughs. "Lisa and I have been together since before Girlfriend," he says. "Even when my first marriage wasn't going to hell, I could write all kinds of relationship songs. People meet me, and because of my lyrics, they say, 'I can't believe you're so cheerful' But I don't want to be a drag when I'm meeting people. In my work I'm more likely to tackle an issue that's difficult for me than to simply proclaim my happiness. I'm still drawn to a more melancholy and introspective song. I like melody, but with that tug in it. That turning of a key inside you."

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