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This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to… the Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat June 20, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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It had been a while since I listened to Beauty and the Beat by the Go-Go’s. At least three or four years. And before that probably a decade or so. I bought this first in Macs in the Georges Street Arcade in or around 1984 and never regretted it. But what struck me was just how good it remained.

There was, for all that it was new wave pop, a punky snarl in amongst the 1950s girl group stylings and the surf guitars – that curious mixture of looking simultaneously forward and back is very 1982, isn’t it? It’s in the metronomic beats behind some of the songs, the sheer power of the drums (most un-1950s on the backing to the chorus on How Much More), the restrained but not muted guitars, the ever so slightly off kilter and sometimes melancholic approach to the vocals and the angular arrangements.

Read any of the accounts of west coast punk and it can be surprising just how high profile and well-regarded the Go-Go’s were by the most unlikely of peers. They were part of the scene and though there was a sense amongst some that they were shifting from it there was surprisingly little rancour directed at them. Half a year in the UK in 1980 clearly altered their trajectory yet further – not least due to the success of ‘We Got the Beat’ which even in demo version became a hit there. A deal with IRS followed and with that their first album, the aforementioned Beauty and the Beat.

Allmusic suggests that this album was one of a number that brought new wave in the US to a wider audience. it’s very possible for it is quite simply full of really well arranged and composed songs. Our Lips Are Sealed is rightly a classic – and co-composed with Terry Hall – all chugging guitars, as is Tonite, This Town and We Got the Beat but there is real pleasure in the other less well known tracks.

I’ve read some note that early REM sounds not unlike this, and you know, it’s not that much of a stretch. There’s a jangling quality to the guitars and the arrangements. Both groups were expanding the space that post-punk operated in, both in an odd way reaching back to pop albeit in unexpected directions.

I remember buying Vacation, its successor, at more or less the same time and being a little disappointed. There the formula had been smoothed out, the melodies a little less distinct, and a sense that while the textural aspects were all there somehow it was a bit lacking. And yet that album too has its moments. Later there were breakups, solo careers, sort of kind of bids for stardom and so on, and a sense that they had become even more commercial. They have however reformed numerous times and are still gigging.

And this, this is a great album and its familiarity – perhaps over familiarity at certain points – is no reason to ignore that fact. Brilliantly ironic post-punk cover too.

Our Lips Are Sealed

We’ve Got the Beat

How Much More

Tonight

This Town

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