Susanna Hoffs: “Raining”
For today’s New Music Monday, we’ve got a dose of temporal juxtaposition: music released in July 2012 by an ’80s star, heavily influenced by music of the ’60s. It’s Susanna Hoffs, adored lead singer of the Bangles, from her newest album, Someday. As it turns out, I saw Susanna play at the Triple Door in Seattle last night, and she sounded fantastic (and, I feel the need to point out, looked fantastic — she’s 53 now, if you can believe it, but could easily pass for 35 . . . the woman does not seem to age, and does not at all appear to have succumbed to the lure of plastic surgery). She played a mix of new and old solo songs, Bangles songs, and covers of great ’60s and ’70s songs (“Different Drum” by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys, “All I’ve Got to Do” by the Beatles, and “September Gurls” by Big Star, to name a few), and was in fine voice throughout. Somewhat disappointingly, her entire backing band sat in chairs the whole time, which felt like it turned down the collective energy a notch — maybe as a way to make sure the diminutive Hoffs got the audience’s full attention, although I don’t really think that would have been a problem anyway — but that’s a small quibble, because overall, it was a really good show.
For the new album, Hoffs has turned more strongly than ever before toward the baroque pop of the ’60s, with a majority of her songs sounding firmly rooted in the music of the Left Banke (of “Walk Away Renee” fame), the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle album, and Burt Bacharach. It’s her first solo album since 1996’s superb Susanna Hoffs (her recorded work since then has consisted primarily of the Under the Covers cover-song collaborations with Matthew Sweet). Produced by the great Mitchell Froom, the album is an excellent return to form for Hoffs, and one of the most memorable of the songs is the single, “Raining.” It starts in sounding like Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” but quickly turns into a song that would have sounded right at home on the flip side of Lulu’s “To Sir with Love” (another song that Hoffs has covered, with fine results). It’s a classic-sounding throwback to the ’60s pop era, and Hoffs, a thoroughly underrated songwriter (this one is a collaboration with Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers), handles tunes like this as well as anyone today.