Sunday, November 06, 2011

CD Review: The Bangles 'Sweetheart of the Sun'

Conventional wisdom has it about right regarding the oeuvre of The Bangles. Their first album, 1984’s All Over The Place, was a fine example of the emerging sixties-influenced guitar-based, jangle-pop ‘Paisley underground’ thing that was happening at that time.

Instead of continuing in similar vein, the band sought a short-cut to stardom, through songs such as Manic Monday and Walks like an Egyptian, enjoyable pop confections in themselves, but less than the band was capable of creatively. And then of coure they recorded the excruciating power ballad Eternal Flame.

So I wouldn’t have bothered with their latest effort Sweetheart of the Sun had I not needed to use up eMusic downloads before they expired and chosen this in haste because I had at least heard of the ban. It is pleasing to find that this album is really rather good, a worthy successor to All Over The Place. Unlike their intervening efforts, most of the material is written by group members without outside help.

All the things that made The Bangles worth listening to in the first place are here: pleasing harmonies, jangling guitars, memorable songs with soaring choruses. Beatles, Byrds and REM influences very much to the fore. Songs like the opener ‘Anna Lee’ and ‘I’ll never be through with you’ even sound like potential hit singles. The only complaint (as more than one reviewer has commented) is that some of the lead vocals sound strained – as if a nasty cold virus was going round and the group members hadn’t quite recovered when they recorded their vocals.

In case it seems a strange leap from writing about CD by the respected-but-obscure Jayhawks to the well-known-but-lightweight Bangles, it’s worth remarking that the producer of this album, Matthew Sweet, has also co-written and recorded with The Jayhawks, while Bangle Susanna Hoffs sang on Jayhawk Gary Louris’s solo album Vagabonds. Degrees of separation and all that.

For some reason I don't seem to be able to embed videos right now but here is a youtube link to a song from the album.

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