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Matthew Sweet

Ever since his power-pop masterpiece Girlfriend in 1991, rocker Matthew Sweet has suffered--perhaps unjustly--from perennial comparisons to that landmark album. On the other hand, many of us who love the melodic melancholy of that recording still yearn for Sweet to make a record that matches it.

He's come close once or twice, but has never quite re-created the magic; this new CD is the latest example.

The opening track, "Time Machine," finds Sweet aching for something he lost and hasn't regained. In this case, it sounds as if that relic is an old love, but the song also can be interpreted as nostalgia for his salad days, when he helped redefine the concept of power-pop.

"Flying" is a decent reiteration of an '80s-looking-back-at-the-'60s garage rave-up, and the blizzard of rippling guitar chords of "Let's Love," not to mention the song's humane message, is pleasantly hopeful. "Room to Rock" and "Burn Through Love" also manage to stir up some joyful noise, but they sound a tad two-dimensional.

To be fair, every chord progression, melody line and rhythm track sounds as if it's in the right place, and as usual, Sweet has chosen some top-notch support, including ace guitarist Richard Lloyd (formerly of Television) and pedal-steel player Greg Leisz. It all makes sense on paper, but Sweet's thin, whining vocals and the muddy production values hold it back in action.

Sunshine Lies somehow sounds like a demo in search of a savvy producer who can coax out its latent charms.

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