|The Trouble With Sweeney
|Some may remember JOEY SWEENEY from first-wave SpinArt lovable-huggables THE BARNABYS. They made a handful of spirited depresso-pop records in the early-90s that got mad love from everyone from the NY Press to Puncture. In ’95, Sweeney issued his solo debut, Heartache Baseball, which referenced BIG STAR’S THIRD and THE RED HOUSE PAINTERS in equal, loving parts. Again, mad love from the indie press, and the lead-off track landed last year on the soundtrack to HAL HARTLEY’S THE BOOK OF LIFE, starring PJ Harvey and Martin Donovan. After Heartache Baseball and an impromptu visit from a crazed Japanese fan, Sweeney took a hiatus from this rock life, establishing himself as an up-and-coming rock writer of note. (Look for him today in Salon, Magnet and Spin Online.) His return to the fray is with the debut ep by his new band, THE TROUBLE WITH SWEENEY, an outfit that frames his characteristically witty but tortured missives of love and disenchantment with an almost alt-country grace and chamber-pop restraint. This six-song EP was recorded with Edan Cohen (PINES OF ROME) and guests BRAIN MCTEAR (MAZARIN, MATT POND PA); it also features a goose-pimply cover of BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD’s “Flying On The Ground IS Wrong.” Fans of WILCO, SIMON JOYNER, CAT POWER, VELVETS, BELLE AND SEBASTIAN, THE BYRDS and THE GO-BETWEENS, take note.”|
|The Trouble with Sweeney
“Dear Life” (btv038)
1. $500-A-Day Hall of Mirrors
2. Two More People
3. So Tough
5. She is Right Here Tonight
6. That’s What I Was Wearing That Day
7. Ellwood City
8. The Person I Know Myself to Be
9. Master of the Scouts
10. Is That Your Car?
11. The Ghosts of ’97
|Philadelphia’s The Trouble with Sweeney’s full-length is inspired by ’60s pop of The Turtles and The Lovin’ Spoonful, but also points forward, purifying their cross-bread alt-country instincts. Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner (Marah) adds lap steel and Brian McTear (Mazarin) produces. Their 2000 self-titled ep was listed in a writer’s top 10 of 2000 on rollingstone.com, apparently those tortured missives of love and disenchantment are still cool.|
|The Trouble with Sweeney
“I Know You Destroy!” (btv055)
1. The Break Up
2. Surrey Is A Word I Hardly Ever Use
3. Arm In Arm
4. The Snitch
6. Why Can’t Anything Be Easy, Baby?
7. Fake Moustache
8. The Biggest Mary In The Entire School
9. At Noon
10. High Tide & Green Grass
11. The Counterfeiters
|In a world filled with critics who want to be rock stars and rock stars who want to be critics, Philadelphia’s The Trouble With Sweeney defy it all by being exactly what they are — secretly, and against all odds, one of the best bands in America.What’s new this time around are the ambitious arrangements and stellar playing found all over I Know You Destroy! — thanks as much to producer Brian McTear (Burning Brides, Mazarin, Bigger Lovers, Matt Pond PA) as well as the life breathed in by the new rhythm section of Mike Conklin on bass and Richard Stuverud (Pete Yorn, Threefish, Nash Kato) on drums. Meanwhile, the core duo of brothers-in-law Heyward Howkins and Joey Sweeney pony up what are perhaps the ten strongest songs they’ve ever written — to say nothing of an extra Byrdsy pop gem contributed by Richard. If we may be so bold, the songs here run the gamut of American music, from timpani-infused confessional rockers to geekazoid new wave to rockabilly (by way of Morrissey) shuffle to…some of it sounds like it’s in a damn musical!
None of that should be too surprising to those who’ve followed the broad literary/rock shuffle of the band’s leader, who is as beloved (and be-hated, if indeed that is a word) as a pop culture and music critic as he is as what Popmatters.com just called “one of the great pop troubadours of this fresh new century.” Putting aside his pedigree as the leader of the Barnabys as well as a solo artist previous to all of this, this past year has been a huge one for the kid: In addition to penning the bulk of I Know You Destroy!, he got married, made a well-received EP (Play Karen And Others) with TTWS, toured the country, nabbed top honors in the AAN Award For Music Criticism, showed up in Da Capo’s Best Music Writing 2002, penned some real knee-slappers for Salon.com and then got started on two different books.
Thing is, you’ll find reference to none of this on I Know You Destroy! — and if you do, it is mired in a such a deep code that, hey, you know what? Be our guest. Go ahead and find it.