Agony Shorthand

Sunday, August 24, 2003
GIRLS AT OUR BEST : “PLEASURE” CD….All I’ve ever known about this band I learned in the early 80s in my fanatical perusing of then-newly minted copies of UK musicweeklies NME and Melody Maker – that they were a British “girl band” (untrue, there’s three blokes & a bird) and that their actual moniker was the more emphatic GIRLS AT OUR BEST! (still checking on that). This 1994 complete works compilation on Vinyl Japan helps set the record straight. The kickoff track, “Getting Nowhere Fast” from their 1980 debut 45, is one of those face-slapping moments any music obsessive lives for – a fantastic, classic, top-tier rock and roll song that I’d never heard before, at a time when sometimes I snobbishly think I’ve heard everything brilliant this era had to offer. Picture a driving, snotty, femme-voxed cross between “Pretty Vacant” and “Suspect Device” – “Getting Nowhere Fast” is easily as good and catchy as both. Download it! You need to hear this classic if you haven’t before – I must’ve played it 25 times in the past couple weeks.

Since “Pleasure” is a warts-and-all career compilation, well, the good news after “Getting Nowhere Fast” is that the band didn’t fly down the toilet with their next 45s and 1982 “Pleasure” LP, but the bad news is they didn’t do anything especially noteworthy either. There’s some raw, grinding “Join Hands”-era SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES guitar on a couple winning numbers (like “Warm Girls”) and then, in a complete change of form that comes about four songs in, there are multiple examples of happy bouncy pop, like a slightly more amped-up DOLLY MIXTURE (“I’m Beautiful Now” and “China Blue”). Nothing in the 17 tracks has anywhere near the oomph of “GNF” but I’m telling ya, not much of anyone’s does. To its credit, the CD is pretty stylistically varied from track to track, and vocalist Judy Evans is really “at her best” when she sings in her normal, snarled tone of voice instead of the less enthralling high-pitched English falsetto. Not because I’m a punker, but just because.