Girls At Our Best ‘Pleasure’ – album review

Girls At Our Best ‘Pleasure’ (Optic Nerve Recordings)
Dbl LP only (Ltd Edition)
Available now

Girls At Our Best emerged from the Leeds punk scene in 1979 and were frankly responsible for some of the finest post punk pop of the era; I first became aware of them as John Peel was a particular fan and (rightly) repeatedly played the iconic debut ‘Warm Girls/Getting Nowhere Fast’ single upon its April 1980 release on the bands own Record Records label, this was followed up by the ‘Go For Gold/I’m Beautiful Now’ 7” – both releases being included on this vinyl re-issue of the band’s only full album release. The album has since been re-released a number of times since, Cherry Red putting out a CD version, and Vinyl Japan an LP with differing artwork.

As for this edition, it’s well worth describing the actual release; Optic Nerve Records have essentially gathered together the original Pleasure album and added the early singles, and both a BBC Session (Richard Skinner Feb 1981), and a lone demo track, from this point though Optic Nerve have excelled themselves – the 19 tracks being spread across two transparent yellow splatter vinyl discs housed within a gatefold sleeve and including a re-press of the original albums ‘Pleasure’ bag complete with tour posters, stickers, press photo and even a logo stencil with instructions on how to create your own GAOB T-shirt!

The first disc faithfully reproduces the original album track listing – opener ‘Pleasure’ is a pure delight, from the “1,2 go to…Pleasure City Avenue” and demonstrates the influence Girls At Our Best had upon future bands such as The Flatmates and as Everett True suggested Tallulah Gosh and the entire ‘cute pop’ movement, so we finally have someone to blame; personally I would suggest that Girls At Our Best also signposted the way to much of the C86 movement. ‘Too Big For Your Boots’ is almost jaunty in its delivery, elements of “how’s your father?” music hall stem from Thomas Dolby’s keyboard flourishes, whilst ‘I’m Beautiful Now’ shows a band entirely comfortable with experimentation, again its this collision of pop harmonies with rumbling rock bass…’Waterbed Babies’ taking a well-aimed swipe at capitalist dreams, the verses struggle somewhat – perhaps a case of just too much going on, but when that chorus arrives its almost triumphant, whilst ‘Fun-City Teenagers’ still confounds with its wayward vocals and clarinet! I was hoping Optic Nerve had been able to reproduce the locked groove ending to ‘£600,000’, the original pressing closing on a never ending drum patter – I’m guessing the masters for this release coming from Cherry Red who put out the CD and locked groove trickery being something digital technology is unable to reproduce.

Flipping the vinyl to highlights like ‘China Blue’ there is a distinct bright-eyed freshness to the tracks, nothing is contrived, this is the sound of a band bravely progressing from their punk core, not every track works, at times it’s like eating an apple sour, you literally shudder whilst enjoying the riot of clanging guitars…’Fast Boyfriends’ is a case in point, wilfully difficult but the chorus rewards with an almost fist punching vocal refrain “Oh! Oh! Here we come fast boyfriends”

‘Pleasure’ was a well-crafted album with enough noise and angular guitar to take the album into the upper reaches of the Indie Chart, and entering the mainstream UK Chart at #60,  and a subsequent tour of the US, however it was missing the instant rush of ‘Getting Nowhere Fast’ and ‘Warm Girls’ which along with the BBC session take up sides three and four.

Despite the 33yrs since their release they sound equally as fresh now as they did back then; that opening harsh nagging riff, the descending looping bass giving way to swirling guitars that hints at early Banshees – this is short, spikey pop complete with Judy Evans ever so imperfect vocal delivery about trading your life for a replacement before the sudden two minute edit which leads us into the utterly gorgeous ‘Warm Girls’ – the near perfect clash of pop and indie rock, the track just fizzes along as the sardonic lyric delivers a head kick to the syrupy emotion of marriage; the warm delivery of the chorus disguising the real bite “I sing and I write and my fiancé and I love to travel/All the girls are so friendly/ We do enjoy this life so much/Were all such wonderful friends/And I love mental children” all underpinned by a semi disco backbeat.

‘Politics’ showed a band not afraid to experiment, the cleaner sound characterised by Judy’s distinct possibly overstretched vocal , closer ‘This Train’ was missing from the original release, later appearing on various reissues, a very welcome inclusion and a hint at where Girls At Our Best were heading before their untimely demise – debate still rumbles on as to whether Judy could actually sing, certainly in the accepted sugar coated manufactured pop environment they preceded, her voice, the band weren’t perfect… but aren’t the imperfections the things that make great pop music?

Tracklisting:

A1 Pleasure
A2 Too Big For Your Boots
A3 I’m Beautiful Now
A4 Waterbed Babies
A5 Fun-City Teenagers
A6 £600,000

B1 Heaven
B2 China Blue
B3 Fast Boyfriends
B4 She Flipped
B5 Goodbye To That Jazz

C1 Getting Nowhere Fast
C2 Warm Girls
C3 Politics
C4 It’s Fashion

D1 Go For Gold
D2 I’m Beautiful Now
D3 Fast Boyfriends
D4 This Train

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