Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Matthew Sweet

A SURPRISE HIT, TURMOIL IN THE FOLLOW-UP

"IT WAS LIKE I WAS BEGGING THEM TO let me put out one more record," says Matlhew Sweet about the bad old days. The year was 1990, and he was shopping around his completed third album, Girlfriend, which A&M had declined to release. Zoo Records had also passed. Then almost a year later, Zoo's president happened to hear it in the hall, and the rest is career-reversing, nearly gold, alternative-rock history.

With Altered Beast, Sweet didn't have a chance to labor in obscurity. "A lot of people cared about what I was doing and had all these opinions," he says. "But I was left to do what I wan led, for better or worse." To avoid repeating himself, the songwriter tried to make a "trashy quick" record, slam-banging 25 tracks before ending up with 15 on the album. "I was letting myself go in many directions, no matter how wigged out," he says. "There's a lot of turmoil on the record. I really felt I'd been put through the wringer in the past year. I got a little weird and anxiety-ridden."

Altered Beast was produced late last year, right after Sweet came off the road from promoting Girlfriend. He didn't even have time to help his wife, Lisa, move them from Princeton, N.J., to Los Angeles, where he was recording. For a boy from Lincoln, Nebr., who used to record songs in his bedroom as a teen ("I was too shy to let other people hear them") and who signed his first record deal while attending the University of Georgia in that low-key-rock breeding ground, Athens, the shift was shocking. "I finished the album and there I was, living in L.A.," he says. "It was really surreal."

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