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Making rock fun again

Under the Covers, Vol. 1
Under the Covers, Vol. 1
By Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs

Shout! Factory: 2006

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Men Women & Children
Men Women & Children
By Men Women & Children

Reprise Records: 2006

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This review first appeared in Turbula in May 2006.

Is it finally acceptable for rock music to be fun again? After a couple decades of interminably serious attitudes about pop and rock music holding sway, a couple of new releases seem to suggest that just being silly is also okay for the non-bubble gum set.

Indie rock pioneer Matthew Sweet and Bangles lead singer Susanna Hoffs have teamed up for a retro project a la Robert Plant's The Honeydrippers or Bill Wyman's two Willie & the Poorboys projects.

This all-star exercise in pop nostalgia covers everything from Dylan, the Beatles, Beach Boys and Neil Young to semi-forgotten nuggets like Marmalade's "I See the Rain," Love's "Alone Again Or" and The Left Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight."

Sid n Susie, as Sweet and Hoffs call themselves here, create some truly magical vocal harmonies. Sweet also does a nice job of capturing all the different guitar styles associated with these various hits.

And that's what makes this so fun – most of the arrangements stick pretty close to the originals, giving the album a bright, uptempo mood.

If Sweet and Hoffs look to the '60s for their inspiration, Men Women and Children find their muse in the dance-happy beats of late-'70s disco and '80s new wave.

A project of Glassjaw guitarist Todd Weinstock, MW&C plays an utterly, joyfully over-the-top dance music that draws on everything from Billy Idol to Donna Summer to David Bowie to KC & the Sunshine Band. It is completely uninhibited, with "Who Found Mr. Fabulous?" being the most out-there.

If you're looking for attitude or meaning, MW&C isn't for you. If you want to shake your booty, however, this is the perfect album.