When the Bangles re-formed in the early 2000s and released Doll Revolution in 2003, the band seemed split between trying to recapture the jangle pop sound they had when they began and trying to stay current with the times (in terms of production). On the second album to come from their return, 2011’s Sweetheart of the Sun, there are no attempts to stay current. Instead, by hiring Matthew Sweet to co-produce, the band makes it clear that they are ready to embrace their power pop past. The record brims with jangling guitars, tough lead guitar work from Vicki Peterson, rich vocal harmonies, and a layered, live sound that sounds really, really good (and almost exactly what you’d hope the band who recorded All Over the Place in 1984 would sound like 25-plus-years later). The songs that Susanna Hoffs and the Peterson sisters (Debbi and Vicki) wrote for the record are good, too. Solid and gently hooky tunes about kids, relationships, and the realities of middle age life; they too sound like the best you could hope for all these years later. The mix of convincing rockers ("Ball N Chain," "What a Life"), rollickingly tender janglers ("Anna Lee (Sweetheart of the Sun)"), and a handful of introspective ballads is just about right, too, and shows the band is adept at conveying a wide range of moods and styles. And their choice of covers is predictably savvy. They rock out nicely on "Sweet and Tender Romance," an obscure British girl group song originally done by the McKinleys in 1964, and exhibit some amazing harmony singing on the Nazz's "Open My Eyes." The combo of songs, performance, and sound means that anyone who was saddened by the glitz pop turn the band took post-All Over the Place could look at Sweetheart as the true follow-up to their debut. The only thing that gives you a clue to all the time passed is the rough edges around the lead vocals. It’s kind of odd, really. They all sound miraculously ageless when singing in harmony but when singing alone they tend to push their voices past their natural limits and end up hitting some duff, craggy notes. Especially Hoffs, who takes the bulk of the leads. It’s too bad Sweet didn’t clamp down and reign in this small but noticeable problem, as it makes for some jagged moments. Still, Sweetheart of the Sun is a remarkably good record that comes long after anyone may have expected the Bangles to do anything much at all. Credit Sweet's production, but also the trio’s dedication and renewed skills and energy. Hopefully it won’t take another quarter-decade to follow this one up.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra