Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: 'Ladies and Gentlemen... The Bangles'

The Bangles were the only band to climb out of LA's sixties-fetishizing Paisley Underground to become zillion-selling pop superstars. However, when they hit big in 1986 with Different Light, there was a mere dusting of paisley atop the drum machines, synthesizers, and other heavy-handed eighties production strokes. Sure, "Manic Monday" was a really good record, but the original fans The Bangles had won by doing time on the Sunset Strip were probably left wondering what happened to the organic, no-frills band they loved. 

Thirty years later, we have our answer: they're all over Ladies and Gentlemen... The Bangles. Originally released as a download in late 2014, this compilation of pre-fame Bangles (and Bangs, their original name) reveals the great band Susannah Hoffs and Vicki and Debbie Peterson were before they were raking in the dough with mush like "Walk Like an Egyptian" and "Eternal Flame". Even their later-day hits make their vocal-harmony prowess clear, but none of that well-known stuff shows off what a powerful band The Bangles could be when not having their spirits crushed by studio musicians and synths. "Bitchen Summer/Speedway" is surf rock TNT with a quick fuse. Better known because of their inclusion on Rhino's excellent Children of Nuggets comps, "Getting Out of Hand" and "The Real World" are vibrant pieces of jangly pop that could fool Richie Unterberger into thinking they were recorded in early 1967. And if those songs do not make it clear where the original Bangles were coming from, their covers of songs by Love (their live version of "7 and 7 Is" is another gob-smacking display of the viciousness unheard in their pop-star years), Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Turtles, and The La De Das surely will. 

Ladies and Gentlemen apparently scrapes together whatever is available from before The Bangles signed to Columbia and discovered Aqua Net. There are singles, radio recordings, live recordings, demos, a brief advert, and their entire self-titled 1982 EP for Faulty Products. It's a drag to think that more of these recordings won't get released--and that The Bangles didn't continue in this vein for their entire career-- because Ladies and Gentlemen is outrageously fab and over too quickly.
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