During their initial run in the 1980s, The Bangles were labeled by some critics as a poor man’s version of the Go-Go’s. It seemed unfair to me. After all, hadn’t their three albums – 1984’s All Over the Place, 1986’s Different Light and 1988’s Everything – produced poppy, progressively commercial tracks such as “Hero Takes a Fall,” “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Eternal Flame”? And hadn’t Prince himself been so impressed by “Hero” that he wrote the popular “Manic Monday” for the second album? The Bangles had their own sound; the only thing the two bands shared in common was the absence of testosterone.
Those same doubters have probably continued their nonsupport since the Bangles’ return with 2003’s Doll Revolution and this year’s Sweetheart of the Sun. If that’s the case, it’s unfortunate, because the new album has some genuinely decent offerings. Opening track “Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the Sun)” gets things rolling with a bright, radio-ready riff. The Tom Petty-style “Ball N Chain” finds band members Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson and Vicki Peterson rocking out as hard as they ever did. And they sound even more focused during the album’s second half, on songs such as the serious-minded “One of Two” and the toe-tapper “What a Life.”
In short, the 10 original compositions on Sweetheart – which the band co-produced with Matthew Sweet – capture a more mature-sounding Bangles at their best while doing nothing to tarnish the band’s legacy. Covers of the McKinleys’ “Sweet and Tender Romance,” with its fuzzy guitar sound, and the Nazz’s “Open My Eyes,” which features some soaring harmonies, fit in quiet nicely, as well.
Like so many others in the male-dominated music industry, these ladies deserve a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Certainly, with Sweetheart of the Sun, they’ve earned it.