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By: Michael D. Vogel

© August 7, 1996. Michael D. Vogel.  All Rights Reserved.

Published in:

Virtually Alternative magazine – September 21, 1996

 

‘…band members wanted: Must be into the Beatles, Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds…

This ad, placed in Los Angeles The Recycler, a classified newspaper used to sell cars, pets, stereo equipment, etc., was the instrumental ingredient that helped launch the career of the then soon-to-be singer/guitarist for the Bengals – Susanna Hoffs. Combining an avant-garde mélange of pop and rock, the band was to become one of the most popular precursors of the “riot grrl” movement. Despite their success, the constant threat of being taken more seriously for their appearance than their music and over-exposure by FM radio and the video channels caused the Bengals to disband in 1989. Subsequently, Susanna Hoffs moved on to pursue a successful solo career as a singer as well as an actress.

Susanna’s authenticity makes for a welcome change from the hundreds of pale imitations, which have appeared in the post-new wave era. Combining the musical ambience of the Beatles with the D.i.Y. spirit of new wave, Susanna Hoffs has all the ingredients for lasting success. In her songs, Susanna incorporates perfect vocal harmonies, sophisticated melodies, powerful rhythms and light, floating solos.

Surrounded as she was by rock music and the avant-garde culture, Susanna decided to put her own poetry to music. Her first solo effort, When You’re A Boy, was more of a new wave concept circa the late 70’s, spawning the commercially successful song “My Side Of The Bed.”

So now for her second solo album, anonymously titled, Susanna has enlisted the help of veteran hit-maker/producer/musician David Baerwald, along with ace engineers Jack Joseph Puig and Matt Wallace. “It’s amazing how the world keeps getting smaller the longer you’re in it,” reflects Susanna. A small world is an understatement, as the cast of collaborators is among the hottest and brightest in the music scene today. Mark Linkous from Sparklehorse, David Lowery of Cracker and Charlotte Caffrey, formerly of the Go-Go’s helped share in the co-writing credits. Rounding out the cast are a plethora of great musicians who accompany Hoffs on the album, including Jason Falkner and Roger Manning of Jellyfish fame, Davey Farragher from Cracker, and the legendary Mick Fleetwood as well as Linda Perry, recently of 4 Non Blondes. Hoffs happily points out, “I feel incredibly luck to have such a talented group of musicians as part of my record.”

The new album reflects a newly gained level of maturity and sophistication as an artist, as well as her own unique ability to fuse mass-appeal pop with alternative music. Referring to the recent birth of her son Jackson, as well as the interim problems with record companies and management teams, Susanna has learned a lot of life lessons along the way. “This record marks a personal growth for me as an artist. It is the cumulative effort of overcoming a lot of life’s obstacles.” Hoffs continues, “The birth of my son was such a profound experience that it can’t help but change my life and put things into their proper perspective. Life teaches you a lot of things along the way, but you have to be observant in order to comprehend the lessons that are being shown.”

After being in a band that achieved a great deal of success, there is a certain level of expectation the artist is expected to achieve. Even though, in a sense, the artist is starting fresh as a soloist. “The expectation that you will be as successful as the band is so high that you can’t be perceived in a fresh light. Eventually, you fall through the cracks.” Susanna explains. This type of expectation places the artist in a dichotomy. On the one hand, the artist is expected to be a huge commercial and retail success, but at the same time they have to struggle to establish their own personal artistic identity. “ I rushed in to recording the first solo album without answering these questions for myself. As a result, I now feel somewhat disconnected from that project. In the end, I have matured as an artist, with this record being the manifestation of that growth,” Susanna states proudly.

The music of the 60’s was a very influential element in the formation of Susanna’s artistic personality. “I don’t think I would have developed as an artist, if it weren’t for women like Patti Smith. She is the ultimate artist, poet and woman – as well as my role-model and hero!” declares Hoffs. These roots are prevalent throughout her music as well as her philosophy on life. “Influences get under your skin and stay with you forever. Why should you try and cast them off? They are a part of who you are, what you say and how you relate to music,” pontificates the former Bengal.

Although she pays considerable homage to her predecessors, Susanna also reflects on those that she may have influences herself. “It’s a great compliment and I am deeply flattered. If I am able to influence other women to be musicians, the way my idols influenced me, then I’ve been able to do a great service for both music and women!” tenders Ms Hoffs.

The album itself indicates an evolution of style that blends her 60’s leaning roots with modern day insight. The various tracks on the album demonstrate the level of her vocal expertise while displaying her own brand of unapologetic lyrical and musical moxie. “It’s all how people relate to the music,” asserts Susanna. In contrast to her first solo effort, and those recorded by the Bengals, Susanna has really tried to distance herself from the ‘group spirit’ to settle down and record a personal album. “My sole intention was to record a very intimate record, one that was still somewhat loud and unaffected (by over production),” expresses Susanna. With this type of emotion prevalent throughout her attitude and music Susanna Hoffs will be able to add her name to the list of female solo artists extraordinaire! ^m^

 

Origin:

Athens, GA

Line-Up:                      

Susanna Hoffs – Vocals & Guitar

Matthew Sweet – Backing Vocals

David Baerwald – Guitar, Keys, Percussion & Backing Vocals

Bill Bink – Guitar

Jon Brion – Guitar, Bass, Keys, Percussion & Drums

Charlotte Caffey – Guitar

Jason Falkner – Guitar, Bass, Organ, Keys, Drums & Percussion

David Kitay – Guitar & Percussion

Larry Klein – Guitar & Bass

Greg Leisz – Guitar

Mark Linkous – Guitar & Banjo

Linda Perry – Guitar & Backing Vocals

Anders Rundblad – Guitar

Jeff Trott – Guitar

Davey Farragher – Bass & Backing Vocals

Dan Schwartz – Bass

Chris Fudurich – Keys

Kevin Gilbert – Keys

Bruce Kaplan – Pedal Steel Guitar

Thomas Caffey – Strings

Bill Bottrell – Cello, Percussion & Backing Vocals

Mick Fleetwood – Drums

Curt Bisquera – Drums & Percussion

Lenny Castro – Percussion

Jim Keltner – Drums

Brian McCleod – Drums & Percussion

Jeremy Stacey – Drums

Michael Urbano – Drums

Julie Christiansen – Backing Vocals

Sally Djorosky – Backing Vocals

Petra Haden – Backing Vocals

Rachel Haden – Backing Vocals

About The Current CD:

A much more personal album then her solo debut, the self-titled sophomore release is deals with topics like abusive relationships, and insecurities.

Discography:

Susanna Hoffs (London, 1996)                              When You’re A Boy (Columbia, 1991)

Produced By:

David Baerwald, David Kitay, Jack Joseph Puig & Susanna Hoffs

Label:

London/Polygram

Website:

www.thebangles.com

 

© August 7, 1996. Michael D. Vogel.  All Rights Reserved. This originally appeared on the Vogelism blog at http://www.vogelism.com authored by Michael D. Vogel. This article may be shared or reprinted as long as the entire copyright message, including the source location of this article, accompanies it.

 

One Response so far.

  1. I usually get bored easily and close the tab but i think you have a unique blog. Grats !

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