Girls Go Power Pop!

Label: Big Beat.

Format: CD. 

When Pete Townsend of The Who was promoting Pictures Of Lily in 1967 he was asked how he would describe their music? He replied: “power pop is what we play.” That day, a new genre was born.

However, back then, music journalists didn’t always feel the need to pigeon hole music, so the power pop sub-genre never really caught on. 

It wasn’t until the late-seventies when power pop became common currency amongst music journalists. They knew exactly what power pop sounded like, and it was like a  form of musical shorthand.

Power pop was essentially guitar based pop with melodic hooks and vocal harmonies that is driven along by a dynamic and powerful beat and is energetic and played with enthusiasm. However, while power pop is described as happy sounding music, but it’s often underpinned by a sense of despair, longing, sadness and yearning. That’s part of the music’s charm, and why it’s still so popular fifty-three years after Pete Townsend coined the term “power pop.”  

Recently, Big Beat, an  imprint of Ace Records released a new twenty-five track compilation Girls Go Power Pop! It’s the followup to Come On Let’s Go! Power Pop Gems From The 70s and 80s which was released to critical acclaim in 2019.

Looking through the track listing to Girls Go Power Pop! and there’s everything from singles and B-Sides to obscurities and hidden gems on the compilations. The twenty-five singers and groups that feature include some familiar faces who are joined by what will be new names to many music fans.

Three of the biggest names on the compilation are the Bangles, Pretenders and Go-Go’s. Less well known names include Textones, “B” Girls, Little Girls, MnMs, Fuzzy and Universal Honey. Then there’s contributions from The Runaways, The Darling Buds, Scandal, Josie Cotton and Juliana Hatfield on Girls Go Power Pop! That’s just part of the story of the compilation.

Opening Girls Go Power Pop! is Cherry Bomb from The Runaways’ 1976 eponymous debut album. The song was written by Joan Jett and Kim Fowley and released as a single the same year. However, both the album and single failed to find an audience. Americans missed out on a rocky slice of power pop with a defiant almost punk inspired vocal. Later, The Runaways found success in Japan which is no surprise given the quality of tracks like Cherry Bomb 

In 1977, the Go-Go’s were familiar faces within the LA punk scene. By then, former Gems’ drummer Belinda Carlisle had joined the group and became their new vocalist. Four years later, the group released an anthemic version of We Got The Beat which reached number two in the US Billboard 100.

The Darling Buds were formed in Caerlon, near Newport in South Wales in 1986. Just two years later they had signed to Epic and released their debut album Pop Said…It featured Hit The Ground which is a melodic and memorable hidden gem. It’s a welcome addition to the compilation.

So is The Rebel Pebbles’ 1991 single Dream Lover. It was released on the IRS label but stalled at forty-two in the US Billboard 100. This hook-laden slice of power pop was the one that got away for The Rebel Pebbles. 

In 1984, The Primitives were formed in Coventry and two years later, released their debut single Thru The Flowers on Lazy Records. When they released Crash in 1988 it gave them a hit single i Britain and America. So did the followup Way Behind Me which epitomises everything that’s good about eighties British power pop. That’s right down to a hurt-filled vocal full of sadness where they long to escape a relationship that’s gone badly wrong.

One of the best known groups on Girls Go Power Pop! are The Pretenders. They were  were formed by Chrissie Hynde in 1978 and went on to enjoy a string of hit singles including Brass In Pocket, Talk Of The Town and Don’t Get Me Wrong. One of the hidden gems in their impressive back-catalogue is Night In My Veins which was released as a single in 1994 and reached seventy-one in the US Billboard 100. It’s taken from the album Last Of The Independents which was certified gold in America, Britain and France. 

Having had to change their name to the Bangles, they released The Real World as a single in 1983 on the Faulty Products’ label. This Susanna Hoff and Vicki Peterson composition was produced by Craig Leon and more than hints at what was to come from the LA-based group.

Glad Again is a track from Fuzzy’s sophomore album Electric Juices. It was released on Atlantic Records’ imprint TAG Records in 1996 and finds the group moving more towards power pop on what was an underrated album. Sadly, the album wasn’t a commercial success and they were dropped by Atlantic Records. 

 Originally, Julianna Raye wanted to be an actress and had no interest in following in the footsteps of her cousin Michael Kamen. He had worked with some of the biggest names in music by the time she moved to LA to become an actress. However,  Julianna Raye became a singer-songwriter and was signed by Reprise Records in 1992. Her debut album Something Peculiar was arrange and produced by Jeff Lynne and featured Peach Window. Jeff Lynne’s name is written all over this hook-laden song that showcases a talented singer-songwriter.

Letters To Cleo were formed in the Dorchester area of Boston in 1990 and released their debut album three years later. In 1999, they featured in the film 10 Things I Hate About You and performed two songs. This included Nick Lowe’s Cruel To Be Kind which is given a power pop makeover and is one of the highlights of Girls Go Power Pop!

The Textones were formed in LA in 1978, and in 1980 embarked on a tour of America and Europe. When the group arrived in London, they ended up recording their Moxie EP for Chiswick Records. It featured Vacation where new wave and power pop melts into one. By the end of 1989 Kathy Valentine had left the band and joined Go-Go’s who covered Vacation. Their version was slicker version but lacked the energy and excitement of The Textones’ original. 

I Wanna Go Home by Holly and The Italians closes Girls Go Power Pop! It’s taken from their Right To Be An Italian album which was released on Virgin in 1981. This was one of the album’s highlights and finds the group seamlessly combining punk and power pop. However, the album wasn’t a commercial success and stalled at 177 in the US Billboard 200. By the end of 1981 Holly and The Italians had split-up after releasing just one album.

When Big Beat released their previous power pop compilation Come On Let’s Go! Power Pop Gems From The 70s and 80s. in 2019 this set the bar high for future collections. However, compiler Dave Burke dug deep into his collection and came up with the twenty-five tracks on Girls Go Power Pop! It’s all killer and no filler and will be of interest to anyone with even a passing interest in power pop. Especially power pop that was released in Britain and America during the seventies and eighties. 

There’s contributions from some familiar faces who went on to bigger and better things including Bangles, Go-Go’s and Pretenders. Many of the other groups were short-lived and didn’t come close to reaching the heights that the Bangles and Pretenders did. However, they released some memorable examples of power pop. Hopefully their inclusion on Girls Go Power Pop! will introduce their music to the wider audience it deserves. 

That’s the beauty of a compilation like Girls Go Power Pop! It’s akin to musical voyage of discovery that introduces the listener to new artists and groups. Take my advice and enjoy the journey. Who knows where it’ll take you?

Girls Go Power Pop!

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