Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs

Under the Covers, Vol. 2 (Shout Factory)

Few pop rockers have as luscious, uniquely reassuring voices as Matthew Sweet and The Bangles' Susanna Hoffs. Their first collaborative album, 2006's Under The Covers, Vol. 1 remade songs from '60s artists such as The Beach Boys and Neil Young and was a moderate success, and so for the sequel they're harmonizing on tracks from the '70s.

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-like 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, then, 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. The version is rangier, more empathetic and, let's be honest, it's fun to hear Hoffs sing a love song to a woman. Sweet himself would be wise to take such liberties with these standards.

 
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