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Sweet and Hoffs Pull Back "Covers"

Power-poppers unite to recast Sixties gems

March 27, 2006 5:20 PM ET

With an unpopular war raging and that growing rift between liberals and conservatives, this could be the Sixties all over again -- and perhaps troubled music fans could use something groovy. Power-pop pros Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs have just the thing: On April 18th, the pair will release Under the Covers Vol. 1, an album busting with good vibes and gorgeous tunes originally performed by the likes of the Mamas and the Papas, the Beach Boys, Love and other beacons of pop songcraft.

"Matthew did most of the work," Hoffs says, chuckling. "I waltzed in a day here and there and sang my vocals. I was touring with the Bangles, so I didn't have as much time as he did."

"I did a lot of the basic tracks at my home studio, with people like Ric Menck [Velvet Crush] on drums and Richard Lloyd [Television] on guitar," Sweet explains. He also recruited legendary Brian Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks to play keyboards and harpsichord. "Matthew was form-fit to bag the Sixties vibe," says Park.

Sweet and Hoffs famously collaborated a decade ago as part of another Sixties flashback project -- Ming Tea, Austin Powers' big-screen backing band -- so Covers was a natural step. "We each had a list of songs we wanted to cover," Sweet says, "and they weren't that different."

And, like Ming Tea, there was some role-playing. "We gave each other nicknames," Hoffs says. "I'm 'Susie,' and Matthew is 'Sid.' Maybe it's really our alter egos that get along so well."

Covers is an eclectic but harmonious treasure trove of songs by songwriters and bands that defined their era. Gentle tunes -- such as Fairport Convention's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?" -- sit comfortably alongside a nicely sloppy bash at the Who's "The Kids Are Alright." A letter-perfect, feedback-stoked version of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl" segues naturally into Love's flamenco-dusted ballad, "Alone Again Or." In fact, Sid and Susie had so much fun, they cut too many covers for the CD.

"Oh, we have a number of things, mostly done, that wouldn't fit this time," Sweet says, mentioning the Beatles' "Birthday" and "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey." Hoffs moans at the mention of the Buffalo Springfield ballad, "On the Way Home," that never made the track list.

"Sue is still crushed that we couldn't put that one out," Sweet says. "With luck, there will be a Vol. 2."

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