Regardless of any missteps they made later in their careers, any true fan of power-pop will forever harbor a place in their heart for Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, if only for the former’s one perfect album, Girlfriend (1991), and the latter’s effervescent early work with the Bangles on their first self-titled EP and the debut album All Over the Place (1982 and 1984). Collaborating as Sid and Susie in 2006 and again in 2009 to produce the first two volumes of Under the Covers, the first concentrating on favorite songs from the ’60s and the second focusing on the ’70s, the results were pleasant but not revelatory examples of the tribute genre—unlike, say, the unforgettable Paisley Underground set Rainy Day (1984), on which Hoffs played a key role. But these artists, both of whose careers were made possible by the sounds, spirit, and community of’80s indie-rock, surprise more often and seem more passionate when shining a light on their (sometimes unexpected) heroes from that under-heralded time, including the Bongos, the dB’s, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Smiths, the English Beat, and R.E.M. circa Murmur. It’s like retro college-radio karaoke—and that’s intended as a compliment.
Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, Under the Covers, Vol. 3 (Shout Factory!)
Rating on the 4-star scale: 3.5 stars.