Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs

Under the Covers, Vol. 1 is the title of a new CD by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, on which the pair collaborates on 15 covers of songs from the '60's. In case you hadn't noticed, it is not the first time the two have worked together. Both of them were members of Ming Tea, the backing band for Austin Powers. They co-wrote the songs "BBC" (from the first AP movie) and "Daddy Wasn't There" (from the third one) with Mike Myers. On this CD, the pair worked with some of the musicians who have played on Sweet's albums (i.e. Richard Lloyd, Greg Leisz, Ric Menck) and (on two songs) Van Dyke Parks. The songs include well-known selections from the Beatles, Beach Boys, Who, and Neil Young, as well as cult classics from the Velvet Underground, Love, and the Marmalade. Both singers are in good voice throughout, and their genuine love for the material makes it very enjoyable. Some of the high points: Sweet nails the Beach Boys' "Warmth Of The Sun", in both tone and melody. Hoffs excels with the Stone Poneys' "Different Drum" (according to the notes, "as a young lass, Susie taught herself to sing by sweetly wailing along to this gem"), Fairport Convention's "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?", and the Bee Gees' "Run To Me" (that song is actually from 1971, but who wants to complain?). And her innocent-sounding vocals are perfect for the Zombies' "Care Of Cell #44". The pair do "And Your Bird Can Sing" as well as the Beatles, and impart their own sense of beauty to the Velvets' "Sunday Morning". They tackle two Neil Young songs from 1969, and fans of Sweet will not be surprised to hear that both are done well. This CD is highly recommended for fans of the two musicians that recorded it, and it won't disappoint anyone who digs the original versions of the songs.

In the two years since I created my Matthew Sweet review page, four more titles from his catalogue have gone out of print. Those are Altered Beast (1993), the EP Son Of Altered Beast (1994), Blue Sky On Mars (1997), and In Reverse (1999). I recently added reviews of those first three CDs, and I hope to complete a review of In Reverse before the week is up. On the bright side, Sweet's album Kimi Ga Suki * Raifu was released in the U.S. in October of 2004. It was originally only intended for release in Japan, but I'm glad Sweet reconsidered, because it is one of his best.

I don't mean to pick on Hoffs for something she did nearly 20 years ago, but...have you ever seen the movie The Allnighter from 1987? I did, but I don't recommend that you do. Hoffs starred as a soon-to-be college grad involved in youthful hijinks on the night before graduation. Her two friends -- played by Dedee Pfeiffer (Michelle's sister) and Joan Cusack -- wind up in the slammer, and Hoffs spends half of the movie trying to bail them out in time for the graduation ceremony. The movie was directed by Tamar Simon Hoffs, who is Susanna's mother. Even among silly youth comedies, The Allnighter is a technically inept stinker. It didn't surprise me that Hoffs couldn't act or that her mother couldn't direct; what did surprise me is that the elder Hoffs seemed all too happy to present her daughter as a sex symbol. She even directed her in a sex scene towards the end. That is so wrong.