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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Girls at Our Best!
Pleasure
Cherry Red

Rating: 9/10 ?


July 14, 2009
In the modern indie milieu, where bands at the very least are implored to feign authenticity (if not always to achieve it), it's hard to imagine an art band brazenly putting a price on their own talent. But cast your mind back to the early '80s, and Leeds quartet Girls at Our Best! were to be found consciously typecasting themselves into a commodity. The band's sarcastic embrace of the pleasure principle wrapped their socialist souls in gaudy plastic; effectively tying their angry exuberance up with shiny ribbon to become a pop group that pulsed and bulged in all the wrong places. And they included lucky bags with their records.

Unsurprisingly, the band's skewed, uneasy style was too post- to be -punk, too -pop to be avant-, too clever to be twee. thus, they confined themselves to the scrapheap of music past, until their woefully overdue rediscovery by Cherry Red last month. Yet their unclassifiable catalogue grazes perfection.

This restless bunch of art students (only one of whom was actually female) rattled off a clutch of excellent singles and one album in three years before cutting their career short. But what a career! From the conveyor-belt punk of "Getting Nowhere Fast" to "Warm Girls"' icily kinetic militancy, via "Politics!"' simultaneously sobbing and sarcastic lament to the hopelessness of our political system, the band's singles, now front-loaded onto this debut, are among the best of their era.

There's a giddying leap in quality again between these singles and Pleasure, a concept album of sorts which explores the consequences of having everything you ever wanted. The Girls are at their best with a large canvas to fill, as colours from one track - the odd French lyric, a rephrased refrain - cleverly spill into another. The band build pop songs spring-loaded for added menace, while Judy Evans is a frontwoman whose girl-scout innocence is merely a front for her biting, subversive wit.

This group are at their most potent on the killer one-two punch that ends what you could label Side One: "Fun-City Teenagers," a crunchy celebration of youthful consumer participation (bedecked with trilling, bargain-bin clarinet), is so sugar-sweet that it deliberately leaves a bitter taste in the mouth; "600,000," by contrast, is a heartstoppingly discordant sequence of chants acting as a hilariously banal advert for the band themselves, culminating in a the definitive chorus, "I'll buy Girls at Our Best! today!"

Admittedly, in 2009, the well-trained consumer can't be blamed for asking exactly why it's worth parting with cash for a slice of this obtuse group during a recession. All the more reason to in fact; as for those who've grown accustomed to years of plenty harsh economic reality, art-rock has all but run for the hills. In the three decades since Girls at Our Best! held up a mirror to the simpering face of our excess, very few music artists have engaged so cleverly and so entertainingly with the toxic glue that (for better or worse) holds our society together. We need this now, and it seems that regrettably we must look to the past to provide it.

Reviewed by Gillian Watson
Along with contributions to LAS, Gillian Watson is a contributor to The Skinny magazine.

See other reviews by Gillian Watson

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