When a band is over a quarter century removed from its finest work, expectations are usually low when it comes to a new album.
That was so for the Bangles, who released their terrific debut, ‘All Over The Place’ in 1984. They followed with a pair of solid albums, 1986’s ‘Different Light’ and 1988’s ‘Everything’ before breaking up during the early 90s. The group reformed a decade ago and recorded the decent but unmemorable ‘Doll Revolution’ in 2003.
So who would guess that the Bangles would return with a strong, consistent effort in 2011? Well, the aging girl group did just that with ‘Sweethearts of the Sun,’ which was released Tuesday.
The album, co-produced by pop scholar Matthew Sweet, finds the band going back to its stylish jangly pop sound, which attracted attention during the mid-80s.
“We went to a comfortable place,” vocalist-guitarist Vicki Peterson said while calling from her Los Angeles home. “We went back to a period when we were growing up in LA. We went to this romantic time and place when Carole King was writing great material here like ‘Tapestry.’ That wonderful period doesn’t exist anymore but it inspired us to write ‘Sweethearts of the Sun.’
The new tunes evoke many different moods. Songs range from playful to poignant. The Bangles are once again best when crafting stylish, upbeat songs with lush harmonies. The group, which also includes vocalist-guitarist Susannah Hoffs and Peterson’s sister Debbie on drums and vocals, go back to their sonic roots but they keep it contemporary with modern lyrics about children and mid-life.
“I’m not a kid anymore,” Peterson said. “I have a 15-year old son and that’s a huge part of any parent’s life. I love it and I think it’s interesting writing about this part of life. Our fans grew up just like we did. They can relate.”
The Bangles, which will perform Saturday at the Theater of Living Arts, will showcase ‘Sweetheart’ as well as such hits as ‘Walk Like An Egyptian,’ and ‘Hero Takes a Fall.’
“I guess there are certain songs you need to play and we’re fine with that,” Peterson said. “I’m a music fan too. We can relate to the audience. We enjoy the old songs but it’s so great to make a new album like this. We were due.”
The Bangles, which formed in 1981, have just five releases over that 30-year period. “We had a hiatus there but yeah, we haven’t exactly been prolific,” Peterson said. “But it doesn’t mean we can’t play a little catch up and record some new albums this decade. Each of us is enjoying being in this band right now. There’s no reason to stop now.”