It’s one of music’s cruel ironies that the Bangles‘ only number one hits were, in retrospect, a novelty song and a romantic ballad that’s now shorthand for “final song at a 1980s prom.” But while “Walk Like an Egyptian” and “Eternal Flame” were the band’s biggest numbers, they were only two dots in a career that has spanned, albeit sporadically, nearly 30 years. After a long detour through commercial pop, the group comes home with Sweetheart of the Sun, their first album in eight years, and a return to the band’s folk-rock roots.
In the mid-1980s, with the riot grrrl movement still a few years away, mainstream all-girl groups were few and far between. There were, of course, the Go-Gos, whose sugary pop dominated the charts. Meanwhile, the Bangles’1984 debut, All Over the Place, earned the notice of Prince, who wrote the band’s first major hit, “Manic Monday.”
1986′s Different Light and 1988′s Everything produced five Top 20 hits – six if you count the band’s woozy, Rick Rubin-produced cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” for the Less Than Zero soundtrack – before the band broke up. While all four members shared writing and singing duties, it was Susanna Hoffs that got the attention from Columbia Records. Other band members got upset. Words were exchanged. It’s an old story.
Hoffs, sisters Vicki and Debbi Peterson, and Michael Steele would all continue to record, though the whole was always greater than the sum of its parts. After reuniting in 1999, to record a track for the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack, the group released their fourth album, Doll Revolution, in 2003, and reconvened at Matthew Sweet‘s home studio last year for Sweetheart (though without Steele, who left the band in 2005).
While Sweetheart finds the group covering two Nuggets-era garage rock tracks, lead single “I Will Never Be Through With You” recalls the delicate melodies of the Byrds and Big Star. They may always be known to some as “that Egyptian band,” but Sweetheart is a sound attempt at breaking out of that fossilized shell of their former selves.
Listen to “I Will Never Be Through With You” below. The Bangles’ fifth album, Sweetheart of the Sun, is out September 13 on Model Music Group.The Bangles - I Will Never Be Through With You