Few pop rockers have as luscious and uniquely reassuring voices as Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs. The first collaborative album between the solo artist and the Bangle, 2006’s Under the Covers, Vol. 1, was a moderate success, remaking songs from ’60s artists such as the Beach Boys and Neil Young. For the sequel, they’re harmonizing on tracks from the ’70s.
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Befitting that bombastic era, Under the Covers, Vol. 2 features guitar heroics and technical reproductions. But Sweet takes things a step further by faithfully imitating the idiosyncratic vocal inflections of these artists. Thus, “Here Comes My Girl” is full of Tom Petty-style half-talked, whiny wails, and “All the Young Dudes” contains David Bowie-esque sneering ad libs. This is more eerie than interesting, and only Sweet’s most dedicated fans will be interested in purchasing an album of karaoke. More interesting is when Hoffs puts her gender-bending spin on these mostly male performers’ tunes. “Bell Bottom Blues” is washed over with a tender, frail yearning, and her “Maggie May” is incomparably better than Rod Stewart’s. This version is rangier, more empathetic, and let’s be honest, it’s fun to hear Hoffs sing a love song to a woman. Sweet would be wise to take such liberties with these standards.