IT'S A SHAME that the Bangles are often remembered for two songs they didn't write. That those fragments of the group's legacy—"Manic Monday" and "Walk Like an Egyptian"—are unoriginal compositions retroactively validates any initial criticisms that the group was prefabricated. Really, though, it's more like sheer misfortune, the equivalent of Harry Nilsson only scoring big hits with "Everybody's Talkin'" and "Without You"; the Bangles certainly have a wealth of original glittering pop jewels to their name, too.
Susanna Hoffs—arguably the face, voice, and soul of the Bangles—sounds tired and gentle and totally unlike the vivacious coquette fantasizing about making out with Valentino in the "Manic Monday" video. "If I'm rambling, please make me sound good," she pleads modestly toward the end of our phone conversation—but it isn't hard to do. Her answers are thoughtful and articulate in spite of her confessed road-weariness, and what starts out as a pro forma interview quickly evolves into a more casual discussion.
Hoffs is currently on tour, promoting her new LP Someday, her first solo record in more than 15 years. It's also fucking awesome. This is not surprising. In spite of her best efforts to stress the Bangles' egalitarian principles, we've known all along that Hoffs had the best songs and the best voice (her bandmates knew it, too, which is why the group broke up in the first place).
Sonically, it's also refreshing; with Someday, Hoffs has renounced her signature jangling guitars and close-vocal harmony for orchestral flair and Nashville chutzpah, courtesy of producer Mitchell Froom and engineer David Boucher. The result is a sophisticated, mature pop album (in a Van Dyke Parks, not James Blunt, sense).
"When you do a solo record, it tends to be easier to focus on the more deeply personal stuff," says Hoffs, discussing the uncharacteristically solemn nature of the lyrics on Someday. "November Sun" is a tribute to her second son, and "Picture Me" is a love song that could only come from a calloused heart. Only "Raining" sounds like it might fit in on a Bangles record, but only marginally.
"I still feel like my music is extremely accessible—it's pop, with a tremendous amount of influence from the '60s and '70s still kicking around in those songs—but it's also modern," Hoffs says. Someday, like all great pop records, is indeed a flawless marriage of past and present—and proof that Hoffs still has it.