First of all, it's not originally a Mandy Moore song. "Senses Working Overtime" is by the brilliant English pop group XTC and this version appears on Moore's album of covers called, er, Coverage. Second, as I have owned up to before, Mandy Moore is on my list of five (she's 26 now, so that's not creepy...right?). And, finally, Ms. Moore (I refuse to call her Mrs. Adams) is a pretty talented singer who has a nice interpretation of this song.
Mandy Moore was lumped in with the Brittanys and Christinas of the pop word back during that teen explosion of the late 90's, but she never quite took off the way those two did. She's seemed to have found more success as an actress now than as a musical artist, but I always suspected that there was a little bit more going on (musically) with her than the rest of the 'tween queens. This was somewhat justified when I found out she covered artists like XTC, Joe Jackson, Cat Stevens, The Waterboys, and Joni MItchell on this covers album. She seems to be a very mature musical artist now, unconcerned with album sales and motivated by a love of music (and, again, a profitable acting career gives one that luxury).
Moore doesn't add too many twists to her version of "Senses", but I do enjoy some of the changes. The XTC version takes a bit to get going, beginning very quietly and then getting louder toward the chorus, but Moore jumps right in with the "1-2-3-4-5" bit (the most cringeworthy part of the cover, in my opinion). Her version swings a little more too, though "swing" is a relative term when discussing two rather square artists.
As with most pop acts, the chorus and / or hook is where the tale is told, and "Senses" has a great one. I'm not crazy about the high-end overdubs Moore has on the "counting" bit, but I do like the smooth, fretless bass added underneath. I miss the little guitar jingle after the "counting" that XTC has, though to be fair Moore isn't attempting a rock cover, so no guitar is meant to be noticed anyway.
My favorite part of Moore's version is just a really brief bit - at the end of the chorus the delivery of the line
Trying to taste the difference between a lemon and a lime
I love the way she ever-so slightly draws out the "L" sound (alliteration, kids!) and puts a very slight hitch in her voice on the word "lime". It's also nice how the chorus ends softly, with an almost a cappella part on the "church bells softly chiming" line, the harmonics suggesting chiming bells themselves.
All-in-all, a cover that doesn't necessarily improve on the original, but does give a different perspective which is what a great cover should do And props to Ms. Moore (see, Mandy? You don't even need to change your name!) for digging deep in the pop vault to dust off a little gem like this.
And for comparison's sake, here's the original