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Lo-Fi Is a 4-Letter Word (10th Anniversary Edition)

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Album Review

The Sweet Things belong to that sprawling batch of late-'80s and early-'90s bands who injected the punk ethos of scuzzy ephemerality into pop music. They're descendants of Big Star and Hüsker Dü, contemporaries of Mudhoney, Pavement, and Guided by Voices. But while those groups endured, honed, and experimented, the Sweet Things disappeared. Part of Lo-Fi Is a 4-Letter Word's charm is the straightforward brevity of it all. The group was born at Vassar College in 1990, named after a Shaggs' tune, and died in San Francisco in 1997, all without ever having left the basement — literally, the Sweet Things recorded all their material in basements and bedrooms. Lo-Fi gathers their three releases (the Deliver EP, the Teen Guitars EP, and the Hangin' Out with the Sweet Things 10") plus all existent outtakes.

There's something satisfying about fitting a band's entire career on a single disc, having it laid out chronologically. The succinctness of the Sweet Things' story, however, is by no means the main reason to listen. This compilation is less Collector's Only than Lost Classic. Sure, on the rowdy opener "Boots" when Hall Newbegin vows, "Gonna be a big star/Yeah yeah yeah/All gonna know my name" his tongue is firmly enough in cheek to blur the vocals to noise. But outside of two forgettable instrumentals, all 18 tracks on Lo-Fi do deserve to be known. Newbegin's raw offerings ("Never Fall in Love Again," "Punk Rock Underground") set the collection's tone. The cleaner, catchier Pete Gowdy-crafted numbers ("Sad Eyed Girl," "Can You Do No Wrong?") provide balance. When Gowdy croons "You can f**k for hours/You got magical powers," it's not only the lyrics but the need for clear sentiment amid the rush that comes across. In the end, though, it's a Newbegin track from the first EP that best encapsulates the band. "Cherry Ball" punctuates a cartwheeling mess of fuzz with a series of yelps. The last of these, at 1:14, is one of the most blissful screams ever caught on tape. It's the kind of moment when knowing names, like articulating words, is utterly beside the point. It's the sound of musicians excited just to be recording. the Sweet Things have documented that sheer exuberance as well as anyone. ~ Jeremy A. Schmidt, Rovi

Top Albums and Songs by The Sweet Things

Lo-Fi Is a 4-Letter Word (10th Anniversary Edition), The Sweet Things
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