Album review: Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, Under the Covers Vol. 2 (2009)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 16, 2009

By Steve Newton

Back in 2006, power-pop stalwart Matthew Sweet and sometimes-Bangles singer Susanna Hoffs collaborated on Under the Covers Vol. 1, in which they performed versions of ’60s hits by groups like the Beatles, the Who, and the Beach Boys. On Under the Covers Vol. 2 the two Yanks—who originally paired up in the onscreen band that was featured in the Austin Powers flicks—have a go at some of their fave numbers from the ’70s. The result is a lightweight but enjoyable return to the halcyon days of mag wheels and eight-track tapes.

The disc kicks off with the Grateful Dead’s bouncy “Sugar Magnolia”, in which the duo’s sweet vocal harmonies blend nicely alongside the tune’s dominating pedal-steel guitar. Up next are the honey-coated power chords of the Raspberries’ vibrant ode to cherry-busting, “Go All the Way”, which I’m pretty sure was a highlight of the first K-Tel collection I ever scored (“20 Original Hits! 20 Original Stars!”).

Fleetwood Mac’s jangly “Second Hand News” continues the randy Love Decade vibe with all that talk about getting layed down in the tall grass, and with the sterling fretwork of long-time Mac-man Lindsey Buckingham adding a note of authenticity. Other guitarists picking on UTC2 include George Harrison’s son Dhani (on the deceased Beatle’s cautionary “Beware of Darkness”) and Steve Howe (on Yes’s “I’ve Seen All Good People: Your Move/All Good People”, into which Hoffs subtly injects a famous line from John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”).

Sometimes the covers are well chosen, other times not so much. Hoffs’ voice isn’t quite raspy enough to do justice to Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May”, although it’s sexy as hell on Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”. Sweet’s boyish singing suits an affectionate, pure-pop ditty like Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me”, but it lacks the snarkiness required for Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes”.

If Sweet and Hoffs continue the pattern they’ve set with the first two sets they’ve given us their third volume will be a collection of songs from the ’80s. Hopefully they’ll just show mercy on us all and skip right on through to the ’90s.

To hear the full audio of my interview with Matthew Sweet from 1995 subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 250 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with musicians that I’ve compiled since 1982.

 

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