Matt Sweeney is one of those musicians who constantly pops up in really interesting places. I think I first found out about him through his guitar playing on Johnny Cash’s last two American recordings, but the first time I heard him was with Billy Corgan’s short-lived supergroup Zwan. More recently, Sweeney has turned his “Guitar Moves” web series into one of my favorite ways to kill ten minutes. Each episode, he spotlights a different guitar player; the usual luminaries like Billy Gibbons and Keith Richards get covered, but he also shows how younger artists like St. Vincent, Kurt Vile, and Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra are pushing guitar-playing into new directions.
Arguably, the same could be said for Sweeney’s own playing, which really came into fruition with his ’90s band Chavez. The New York four-piece were true students of rock-and-roll, but their albums had a mad-scientist-glee to them. Long before genre-blurring became the norm, Chavez melded pop-rock with metal, punk with experimental.
Chavez has largely been inactive since 2006, but late last year, they dropped “The Bully Boys” out of thin air (it’s part of a three-song EP called Cockfighters that was officially released last Friday). True to form, the song is dizzying. It puts serpentine riffs on top of a shape-shifting beat, calling to mind both the Who and label mates Guided By Voices. Swagger is an elusive thing in rock-and-roll, but Chavez proves it still has a few tricks up its sleeve.
“The Bully Boys” appears on Cockfighters EP, out now via Matador.
–Art Levy // host, Sunday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m, producer, My KUTX