Susannah Hoffs & Matthew Sweet: Under The Covers, Volume 3

A Re-Imagining Of Some Of Your Favorite 80’s Alternative Songs, And More

It goes without saying that The Bangles were one of the best known music
acts of the 1980’s. The all-girl group rose from relative obscurity thanks in part to the “Mayor of the Sunset Strip,” Rodney Bingenheimer who broke many acts on his popularUnder The Covers, Volume 3. Susannah Hoffs and Matthew Sweet Rodney On The ROQ radio show on Los Angeles radio station 106.7 KROQ. Guitarist and vocalist Sunsannah Hoffs’ inimitable singing style and vocal range helped propel the group to stardom with songs like Hero Takes a Fall, Eternal Flame, and of course who can forget the ever present reminder of the start of our workweek, Manic Monday.

The inevitability of Hoffs making a third album with singer/songwriter/producer Matthew Sweet has landed them both squarely in that decade of Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Mary Lou Rettin, and some of the best New Wave/Alternative music ever. Sweet, no stranger to alternative music fans, has been on the scene since the mid 80’s, hitting his stride in the 90’s with songs like Girlfriend making the rounds on alternative radio stations worldwide.  He has since gone on to produce music, including The Bangles’ latest release, Sweetheart of the Sun.

While Under The Covers, Volume 1 & Volume 2 gave the pair a turn their own opportunity to rework songs from the 1960’s and 1970’s respectively, Volume 3 takes on the 80’s with style and imagination.

 The Power To Bridge The Generations

What’s unique about Under The Covers, Volume 3 is the fact that Hoffs and Sweet seemed to have picked songs that represent not just an era, but the alternative genre as a whole. The set list comes off as something that was put together by your uber-cool friends who followed their own trends back in the day. Starting off the record is R.E.M.’s Sitting Still, a deep cut from their debut full length LP Murmer. Sweet’s lead vocals are drizzled with layers of backup from Hoffs, and the song’s reworking will not disappoint hardcore R.E.M. fans. Many of the songs on this album follow the feel of their original counterparts; often sung in the same key and tempo. Hoffs and Sweet have paid great homage to the artists they obviously admire. A few cleverly re-imagined standouts include XTC’s Towers of London and Elvis Costello’s Girls Talk, with the latter being led by Hoffs with even more energy and enthusiasm than the original.

Those who came along after the 1980’s can still find a relatable feel to the vibe of the decade. The production of each song also provides a fresh approach and gives them an air of relevance that can be appreciated by today’s generation.

The “Other” Girl Group

One song in particular that strikes as ironic is Our Lips Are Sealed, the 1981 chart topper that helped make the “other” all girl group The Go-Go’s a household word worldwide. While fan-based rumors of rivalries between The Go-Go’s and The Bangles persisted throughout the decade, in fact there was never any ill will between the two female supergroups. As Hoffs told Billboard Magazine:

I was surprised and kind of worried. It’s a classic record, always daunting when you attempt it. And there was this invented Bangles/Go-Go’s rivalry that people always talked about that just wasn’t true. The truth is I was a major Go-Go’s fan. I don’t think I would’ve done the Bangles if it wasn’t for the Go-Go’s and seeing them in the early days. That made me feel like I could pursue this, I could stop fantasizing about being in a band and just do it.

Listening to the song, it really does appear that Hoffs is paying tribute to her counterparts in a rendition that, while putting her own stamp on it, doesn’t stray too far from the original composition.

Final Thoughts

Matthew Sweet and Susannah Hoffs make a great pair professionally. Listening to this album, one gets the feeling that their energy and enthusiasm for the recordings comes out of a fondness for the songs they sing, as well as a respect for the original artists and each other. The songs are well crafted and incredibly well produced. Under The Covers, Volume 3 has something for everybody to enjoy.

Track Listing

  1. Sitting Still
  2. Girls Talk
  3. Big Brown Eyes
  4. Kid
  5. Free Fallin’
  6. Save It For Later
  7. They Don’t Know
  8. The Bulrushes
  9. Our Lips Are Sealed
  10. How Soon Is Now
  11. More Than This
  12. Towers of London
  13. Killing Moon
  14. Trouble