Tuesday, November 27, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1204: Girlschool

Welcome back to the Odyssey! For the second month in a row we get to delve into some Girlschool. Yeah!

Disc 1204 is… Hit and Run
Artist: Girlschool

Year of Release: 1981

What’s up with the Cover? Our four leather-clad heroines survey the damage to a brick wall after they ran their rather large sedan into it. Think they’ll be reporting it? The album title suggests…not.

How I Came To Know It: I just (Disc 1191) told the story of how the 4 CD set of Girlschool albums came to be in my collection so I won’t recount that again.  I will note that I originally came to know Girlschool through their guest appearances on a Motorhead compilation.

How It Stacks Up:  I have four Girlschool albums, and I am putting “Hit and Run” in at number one, baby!

Ratings:  4 stars

“Hit and Run” is fast, furious and full of rebellious life; the musical equivalent of being punched in the teeth and yet somehow enjoying the experience.

This is Girlschool’s second album and their most commercially successful. In this regard a bit of context is important; it achieved #5 in the UK but only #50 in Canada (although it did go gold, so we loved them in our way). It had no real big hits, which is perhaps fitting for a record that doesn’t have a single so much as a solid mass of standout songs that deliver a consistent energy throughout.

Girlschool were Motorhead protégés and the influence is strong. Like Motorhead they straddle the line between punk and metal. Here you will get a lot of basic songs without a lot of chords played in the frenetic style of punk music. Like a motorcycle that has a front wheel vibrating ominously through a fast turn, Girlschool sounds like they are on the edge of losing control but never do.

Helping centrifugally balance the turn are churning metal riffs that would be at home on many an eighties metal album in the decade to come. The title track has a killer groove that sits down somewhere between the pomposity of KISS and the driving groove of Judas Priest. This time the song isn’t about bragging about lovin’ and leavin’, but the hurt feelings of the left behind. Girlschool doesn’t wallow, though, “Hit and Run” is a rallying cry to reject self-pity that raises a middle finger to fate and circumstance alike.

My early music experience is more metal than punk and the more crunchy riffs of songs like “Future Flash” appealed to me more than the punk flavours, but all of it is good. In both its incarnations, this is simple rock and roll, played with spit and spite. While I would tune in from time to time to the lyrics, it would be a mistake to look for a lot of complicated messages. Just let the visceral experience wash over you.

The band does a great cover of ZZ Top’s “Tush” filled with Motorhead-esque industrial crunch. It is great, but the fact that it isn’t even one of my favourite tracks is even more telling about the album’s quality. I’d rather here Girlschool blast their own stuff. When you can stand like that side by side with a hard rock classic you’ve got a classic or two of your own, chart topping be damned.

Listening to “Hit and Run” I could also hear the echoes of history, as the record feels like the natural ancestor to many all-girl bands that followed. L7 comes to mind, and – more recently – Bad Cop Bad Cop.

This particular edition of the record has a bunch of “bonus tracks.” While I liked the covers of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ “Please Don’t Touch” and Motorhead’s “Bomber” there were three more tracks that made the experience a bit bloated, and didn’t sufficiently add to the record. If you are going to put bonus tracks at the end of a CD (and I generally wish you wouldn’t) then limit yourself to two.

That’s a minor quibble though on one of the truly great metal albums of the early eighties, and one I expect to be in regular rotation for years to come.

Best tracks: C’mon Let’s Go, Kick It Down, Following the Crowd, Hit and Run, Watch Your Step, Back to Start, Future Flash

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