At the South by Southwest music conference in Austin last week, Jim Rondinelli, who engineered and mixed Matthew Sweet’s remarkable album Girlfriend, was unlucky enough to find himself sitting next to me at a restaurant. For the next three hours, I made the poor guy go through the album track by track, explaining how he, producer Fred Maher, and Sweet fashioned the album’s sonic sweep. It turns out that Girlfriend was constructed on two ideas: The first was to make the record as “real” as possible–i.e., to record real performances in real time and use few samples, or tape edits. But at the same time, they used a heavy compression to give the instruments their thick clarity and the record its technological sheen. That Sweet’s voice is the only one on the record gives it its insular sound, and the variety of homages to Sweet’s pop forebears–from the Beatles to Fleetwood Mac–gives the record the appropriate depth. And Sweet rises to the occasion with a brilliant collection of obsessive and witty songs. His current touring band includes former Voidoid Ivan Julian on guitar and the rhythm section from Velvet Crush. Insane Jane and 80 Pages open this 9:30 show; Sweet should go on about 11:30. Saturday, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Levine.