Under Review: Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs – Under The Covers Vol. 2

I love covers. All-covers albums by one band are a little tricky, though, since the songs chosen are either covered too often or are too iconic to be touched. Traditions be damned, Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs follow up their collaborative debut with another volume of power-popped takes on AM staples. This time around, it’s the 1970s whose tunes get the treatment, which only makes sense as the duo covered ‘60s songs on Volume 1. Upon first glance, the song choices seem less creative than on Volume 1. That disc featured versions of songs originally by Fairport Convention, The Zombies, and Linda Ronstadt’s group, The Stone Poneys. The new disc has a few great moments, like takes on “All The Young Dudes” and Big Star’s “Back Of A Car.” Those, as well as the two Todd Rundgren covers, are fitting choices, as influences from those artists can be heard in Matthew Sweet’s original music (after all, the ‘70s were the birth years of power pop). A little less great are the covers of worn-out or otherwise obvious songs: “You’re So Vain,” “Maggie May” and all seven and a half minutes of “I’ve Seen All Good People.” It’s not that Hoffs (who sings lead on those three tunes) doesn’t make any great contributions; it’s just that she sounds a bit uncomfortable taking on such classics. The interplay between the two is the real heart of this collaboration: Sweet does the verses on “All The Young Dudes” while Hoffs sings the iconic chorus. A bonus disc is also available, that nearly doubles the album’s length. The extra tracks include some more new wave and punk-style songs, which also seem to be a bit obvious in their selection. “I Wanna Be Sedated?” Sweet tries to sound like Joey Ramone. “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love & Understanding?” He tries to channel the Elvis Costello version. The full, note-for-note recital of “Marquee Moon?” You get the idea. It’s a real shame that I don’t love this album as much as I want to. Volume 1 came off as very spontaneous; two music lovers playing some of their favorite nuggets for each other. This installment sounds more forced, more scripted. I can only hope that Volume 3, assuming it’s full of ‘80s covers, revitalizes this great idea of a project.

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~ by E. on July 24, 2009.

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