Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs – a/k/a Sid’n’Susie – follow
up their tour of 60s pop classic with a jaunt through the 70s in Under the Covers Volume 2. Like its
predecessor, the new album finds the powerpop duo pulling favorite tracks from
their virtual desert island playlist and enjoying a high stakes game of Cover Band.
Don’t look for any reinterpretations here. While their
voices sound great together, the album’s main problem is that the two artists have
a different vision. Sweet unwisely goes for mimicry -Buckinghaming “Second Hand
News” and Lennoning “Gimme Some Truth” while Hoffs sings every song the same, clearly
enunciating each syllable in her gorgeous trademark coo. While that can be
sometimes be very appealing – who wouldn’t want Hoffs asking them “please baby, go all the way“? – her
sterile readings of “Maggie Mae” and “Bell Bottom Blues” are so devoid of
passion they’re unnerving. The song selection is wonderful, the playing is
upbeat and the vocals are (mostly) solid, but it never catches fire.
One consequence of making a record for fun is that fun wears thin, and that’s probably the
case here. Don’t get me wrong – I love tribute albums. A song or two as a bonus
track would be a nice surprise; turning the spotlight on a full rack of them in
one sitting is just too much. But there’s not a single track here that can hold
a candle to the original, and it’s really little more than a couple of friends
playing human jukebox with a budget. The true standouts are the guests – Steve
Howe fretting on “I’ve Seen All Good People” and Dhani Harrison revisiting his
dad’s “Beware of Darkness”.
I still think Hoffs and Sweet haven’t topped Ming Tea’s
“Daddy Wasn’t There” from the Austin
Powers movie. Then again, neither has Mike Myers.
Standout Tracks: “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Beware of Darkness,” “Back of a Car” BILL HOLMES