Girlschool: The Bronze Years Boxset – album review
Girlschool – The Bronze Years Boxset (Cherry Red)
4 CD Boxset
Cherry Red has released a collection of the first four Girlschool albums, from the all female Heavy Metal band that found fame in the eighties, Adrian Bloxham has been listening to them and reminiscing.
Girlschool were the second band I ever saw live when I was fourteen. They were at the Leicester De Montford Hall and the year would have been 1982, thirty one years ago. I fell in love with the power and glory of Metal bands live then and this has really never left me even as my taste in music has moved away from their sound. This collection comes from that era of their life and contains four albums, of which the vinyl copies of two of them are still on my shelves. Girlschool, having supported Motorhead on their Overkill tour, found themselves as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and along with Saxon, Iron Maiden and numerous others their star was rising.
The first album âDemolitionâ is a rough and ready heavy metal punk tinged record. Itâs a challenge to the metal community just by existing. Girls playing guitars? Remember these were not the kids that had embraced punk and witnessed the Slits and Siouxsie; these were usually spotty male teenagers struggling with adolescence and finding something to belong to. The music is cool and tough with rock hard riffs and enough of a spiky edge for you to realise that they were going to get better. The songs are sexy and sandpaper raw, as a debut album itâs great. The stand out tracks are âRace with the Devilâ and âEmergencyâ.
âHit and Runâ is immediately more polished and louder sounding, the band have still got the punk edge but there is far greater Metal feel to the music. The vocals are stronger in the mix and the tracks are altogether more accomplished. Itâs an album that any old school metal fan should already own. Stand out songs are the title track and the album opener âCâmon Letâs Goâ with its tribal sounding drum attack and perfect metal riffs. The cover of ZZ Tops âTushâ is another highlight. The album also has the HeadGirl single tracks, the cover of âPlease Donât Touchâ sound as fresh and vital as it did the first time I heard it, Lemmy giving Girlschool another nod and bucket full of credibility. Pure RockânâRoll, dirty and grimy, excellent.
âScreaming Blue Murderâ sounds harder and more in your face than its predecessor. Itâs a step away from the polish and more to do with spit and sandpaper. The vocals are deeper, more punky. The guitar and bass still keep the Metal edge and the album punches well. At the time it was considered somewhat inferior to the first two albums but listening to it now I feel it stands as tall if not taller than their previous offerings. A great metal album. The best tracks are âDonât Call It Loveâ and the thrashy âHellrazorâ. Also worth checking is their cover of the Rolling Stones âLive With Meâ.
âPlay Dirtyâ sees Girlschool move towards a synth heavy polished American Heavy Rock feel. Itâs produced by Noddy Holder and Jim Lea from Slade and they have effectively killed the Heavy Metal genius and grit of the former albums. The first track wouldnât sound out of place on a Pat Benetar album which I suppose at the time was the point. The sound reflects the wish to conquer the US market and echoes the same sound that brought Def Leppard huge success. The music has some redeeming moments mainly as a nod to the Glam roots of its producers. The best song by a mile is the cover of T-Rexâs â20th Century Boyâ which rocks like a bastard son of the original. The other tracks that deserve a listen are âBreaking All the Rulesâ and âBreakout (knob in the media) both are more like the former albumâs sound even thought they are somewhat watered down.
So there you have it; a head rush of proper old British Biker RockânâRoll metal punk over three albums and a patchy cross between American Rock and British Glam sensibilities on the fourth. Girlschool are still playing and recording now, they never went away. Sadly Kelly Johnson passed away in 2007 but her spirit lives on in the music we have here, a hard as nails legacy for anyone to be proud of.
All words by Adrian Bloxham. More work by Adrian on Louder Than War can be found here.