MATTHEW SWEET AND SUSANNA HOFFS – ” Under The Covers “

Posted: September 24, 2017 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , ,

Image result for MATTHEW SWEET AND SUSANNA HOFFS photos

In 2006, Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, recording as Sid and Susie, released “Under the Covers, Vol. 1,” a collection of performances of their favorite songs from the nineteen-sixties that included heavy-rotation classics such as the Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing” and the Beach Boys’ “The Warmth of the Sun” alongside less familiar relics like the Marmalade’s “I See the Rain” and the Left Banke’s “She May Call You Up Tonight.” Three years later, Sweet and Hoffs returned to take a crack at the seventies with a double disc that ranged from power pop (the Raspberries’ “Go All the Way”) to proto-punk (Television’s “Marquee Moon”). Trading lead vocals, accompanied by meticulous recreations of the original music—the effect was like an unimaginably skilled karaoke party.

And now, like slightly slow clockwork, the pair has arrived where they were always destined to go: the nineteen-eighties. It’s the decade, of course, in which Hoffs rose to stardom with the Bangles (they released their first album in 1984 but dominated airwaves in 1986, with “Different Light”) and Sweet began to take steps toward his own power-pop reign (he released “Inside” in 1986 and “Earth” in 1989 before breaking big with 1991’s “Girlfriend”).

This installment of “Under the Covers,” like the ones that came before it, has relatively modest aims. It’s not attempting to reinterpret the songs in a manner that makes listeners forget the original versions. It’s not trying to show off instrumental chops or vocal pyrotechnics. It’s only trying to point out some stars in the sky by which Hoffs and Sweet navigated their journey to becoming singers and songwriters. Those looking for sharp spikes of energy or bracingly innovative arrangements won’t find them.

The set opens with R.E.M.’s “Standing Still.” The “Under the Covers” players—anchored by the drummer Ric Menck and the guitarist Dennis Taylor, both of whom play with Sweet’s band —do a fine job of capturing the swampy sense of the unknown central to any remaking of early R.E.M., while Sweet, singing lead, emphasizes the lack of understanding central to the band’s lyrical mystery.

later in the set, when Hoffs sings lead on a cover of the Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed,” at once the most sensible and the most audacious choice in the bunch. The Go-Go’s, of course, dominated the early part of the decade with their first two albums, “Beauty and the Beat” and “Vacation,” and in the process launched a thousand high-energy all-female rock-and-roll groups, the Bangles among them. Here, the liner notes are short and to the point: “This Bangle loves to Go-Go! Susie was awed pre-Bangles. Sid was awed aged 15. He may or may not have had their bubble bath poster in his room.”

Even when there aren’t direct lines of inspiration, Hoffs and Sweet do right by their source material. Their cover of “Girls Talk” (already sort of a cover, as most people know the Dave Edmunds version rather than the Elvis Costello original) navigates the intricate wordplay and rockabilly beat. And Hoffs’s plaintive reading of Kirsty MacColl’s “They Don’t Know” (also re-covered—the original came out in 1979, but it was made famous again by Tracey Ullman in 1983) is not only the strongest performance here but one of the strongest in the entire series. Yet, not every track succeeds. The version of the Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now” has great instrumental backing, but it suffers, like every Smiths cover, from an absence of Morrissey. And the cover of Roxy Music’s “More Than This,” which reverses gender by letting Hoffs sing Bryan Ferry’s lead part, retains the beauty of the original but not its hypnotic power.

Part of the credit for the album’s success should go to the nineteen-eighties. While the guitar-heavy, lightly psychedelic rock and roll that both artists favor was born in the sixties and mixed into a broader stew in the seventies, the eighties represents a pinnacle for a certain type of pop music. R.E.M. helped spearhead the birth of college radio (also represented here by the dB’s “Big Brown Eyes” and the Bongos’ “The Bulrushes”). The Go-Go’s helped grow MTV into the single biggest force in American music (the duo covers Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” one of the dominant videos of the late eighties). The eighties had good arena rock, which may seem like an oxymoron. In its attempt to take a measure of the sprawling seventies, Vol. 2 had sixteen songs, and another dozen found their way out via bonus tracks and online exclusives. Here, the main album has only fourteen selections, and the diversity of styles can sometimes make the album sound scattershot. XTC’s “Towers of London,” jittery and brainy, sits right next to Echo and the Bunnymen’s majestic, cinematic “The Killing Moon.” If you approach the album as a radio station, it’s not necessarily a problem. If you approach it as a musical biography or autobiography,

UNDER THE COVERS VOLUME 1
Record Store Day 2016 Release. Now available separately on different coloured vinyl, on these three 2 LP sets Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs deliver perfect cover versions of their favourite songs from the 60s, the 70s and the 80s. 2 LP blue vinyl.

UNDER THE COVERS VOLUME 2
Record Store Day 2016 Release. Now available separately on different coloured vinyl, on these three 2 LP sets Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs deliver perfect cover versions of their favourite songs from the 60s, the 70s and the 80s. 2 LP yellow vinyl.

UNDER THE COVERS VOLUME 3
Record Store Day 2016 Release. Now available separately on different coloured vinyl, on these three 2 LP sets Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs deliver perfect cover versions of their favourite songs from the 60s, the 70s and the 80s. 2 LP purple vinyl.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s