Everybody loves a love couple. A guy and girl singing duets, shoulder to shoulder, nose to nose, wagging the playful fingers that say, "Don't go breaking my heart."
Offstage, they may be exes (Sonny & Cher), siblings (Donny & Marie), or shipmates (Captain & Tenille), but under the lights, joined by ampersand and melody, they're the embodiment of true love.
For Under The Covers, Vol. 1, their first album of duets, Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs decided to adopt the love couple alias of Sid & Susie. Longtime friends, they first collaborated in Ming Tea, the fictitious psychedelic band in the Austin Powers movies. And that's where the groovy names come from. In Ming Tea, Sweet was Sid Belvedere and Hoffs was Susie Shagwell.
That swingin' London, color-saturated vibe runs through the fifteen cover songs here, from the pair's faithful and fizzy takes on the Beatles ("And Your Bird Can Sing") and the Who ("The Kids Are All Right") to the Zombies ("Care Of Cell 44") and Dylan ("It's All Over Now Baby Blue"). Sid & Susie also show their connoisseurs' taste by digging into obscure corners of the 1960s songbook to unearth gems such as Love's "Alone Again Or" and "She May Call You Up" by the Left Banke.
In their past work, Sweet and Hoffs have always been harmony-crazy, and they blend their voices to wonderful effect. Whether recreating the Beach Boys' towers of oohs ("The Warmth Of The Sun") or the smiley la-la's of the Mamas & the Papas ("Monday Monday"), they sound like they've been singing together for years.
In a recent interview with this writer, the pair commented on why these cover songs resonate for them. "One thing that strikes me is that they have amazing key changes and melodic moves that are fairly complex," Hoffs said. "And yet they don't feel that way when you're listening to them. They feel very natural. And melody is king." Sweet added, "There's something about how these songs captured both mass appeal and still had that element of being different and interesting. They're so simple and heartfelt in their melodies."
If you're looking for a simple and heartfelt spin with a touch of nostalgia, step into the wayback machine with Sid & Susie. • Bill DeMain