A lot of the charm of this series’ initial two volumes — which focused first on the 1960s and then the ’70s — was in hearing these two delve back into found sounds from outside their own era.
But how would Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs deal with the inevitable journey into the music of their contemporaries? The utterly charming Vol. 3, due November 12, 2103 via Shout! Factory, finds them doing just that, as they move into 1980s’ music by the Smiths, Roxy Music, XTC, the English Beat and others.
One difference here, and this is perhaps the set’s smartest move, is that Vol. 3 delves more into deep cuts and lesser-known acts than did Vols. 1-2. And so you get “Our Lips are Sealed” from the Go-Go’s but also “Big Brown Eyes” from the dB’s. Lindsey Buckingham’s “Trouble” finds a home next to Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon.” They do R.E.M. and the Pretenders, but select “Sitting Still” and “Kid” rather than more obvious radio favorites.
Along the way, as improbable as it seems, Hoffs claims Dave Edmunds’ ‘Girls Talk’ for herself. Kirsty MacCall’s “They Don’t Know” sounds like a long-lost Bangles hit, while the Bongo’s “Bullrushes” would have fit nicely on Sweet’s “100% Fun.” The only small stumbles are Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” (maybe the only song that feels too obvious) and “How Soon Is Now,” no doubt because of the definitive nature of the original take featuring Morrissey and Johnny Marr.
The Go-Go’s track, in its way, may be the most difficult one to pull off of them all — what with Hoffs’ group having worked concurrently in the MTV era. But Sweet and Hoffs take it at a slightly more considered pace, imbuing the song with a sultry new vigor.