Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Bangles return to Northampton on Friday May 29th at the Calvin with Antigone Rising featuring Shannon McNally

I reviewed the first full album by the Bangles, All Over The Place, for the UMass Daily Collegian upon its release back in May of 1984. 25 years ago this month. Unfathomable. To my ears, the album was Revolver done by women. In 1984, the Bangles were just another club band from Los Angeles's Paisley Underground scene (The Three O'Clock, Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate...). Though their peers would disband after mere college radio success, the Bangles would parlay the Underground into superstardom. The curiosity factor then afforded to an all-girl band and their later recording of Prince's "Manic Monday" were certainly instrumental to their rise, but All Over the Place proves that the Bangles were nobody's contrivance. "Hero Takes a Fall," "James," and "Tell Me" showcase Vicki Peterson and Susanna Hoff's knack for hooks; and covers of the Merry-Go-Round's "Live" and Katrina and the Waves' "Going Down to Liverpool" give props to their heroes. And let's not forget the non-LP b-side to the 7" vinyl single of "Hero Takes A Fall,": The Grass Roots' "Where Were You When I Needed You.". All Over the Place never approached the sales figures of the band's subsequent albums, but the Bangles would never make a finer record. They played John M. Greene Hall at Smith College in 1985 on a co-bill with The Hoodoo-Gurus. This is the last time I saw them and it's thrilling to have them back in town on Friday, May 29th at the Calvin. The all-female Antigone Rising with their new vocalist Shannon McNally, taking a break from her solo career, open the show.

I asked local music scholar Dan Kandel to put a few words together about The Bangles for the blog:

Lets talk Bangles a bit. Ever since Different Light exploded across the airwaves in 1985 with the mega-hits Walk like an Egyptian& Manic Monday” (penned by none other than Prince aka “Christopher” as he is credited) these gals cemented themselves as one of the best girl groups in Rock n Roll history. There was something about them that was retro-cool & refreshing at a time when we were watching Rock Royalty like the Who, Bowie, Clapton etc. struggle to find a place in the glossy overproduced world of the Eighties. UK bands like Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, and U2 were establishing themselves on the airwaves while the US was offering up little more than insufferable post-metal “Hair Bands." (Post punk/No-wave & Industrial/Experimental music would soon create an explosion & give birth to bands like Jane’s Addiction & The Flaming Lips-but we weren’t quite their yet).

The Bangles cast their net wide & their catchy guitar riffs & vocal harmonies were immediately identifiable with a return to 60’s & 70’s pop songwriting. I remember the first time I heard their version of September Gurls and I was completely blown away. Very few bands today would risk covering a Big Star song and these gals were dishing it out with a Beach Boys meets Cocteau Twins harmony arrangement while still retaining all the underlying Alex Chilton angst of the original. (The re-birth of Big Star, coaxed out of retirement and unjust obscurity by a smitten 80s pop family tree, was underway and would culminate in a reunion with Jon and Ken from The Posies joining Jody and Alex....but that's another chapter.)

In 1987 they deftly delivered yet another retro-chestnut Hazy Shade of Winter by Simon & Garfunkel (Bookends 1968) for the Soundtrack to Less Than Zero, rearranging the up tempo folky classic into an aggressive sonic assault that charted at #2, 11 slots higher than the original!

By no means am I downplaying their own material but rather pointing out their fearless integration of rather obtuse covers into their own world of "Bangelonia" in all its Paisley Pop glory ( I mean who else would chose to cover Jules Shear ( “If She Knew What She Wants”) & Big Star song on their second full length recording…these gals knew what they were doing & did it well.

Lastly, this should by no means be seen as a “Re-union Tour”per se, Suzanna, Miki (who departed a few years ago), Debbi & Vicki have been recording & performing off & on since 1999. They released the critically acclaimed Doll Revolution in 2003 & have played numerous shows & festivals in recent years & most recently performed at a tribute to the seminal all-girl group The Runaways at the Roxy in Los Angeles back in March.

The Bangles plus Antigone Rising with Shannon McNally play the Calvin Theatre in Northampton on Friday, May 29th at 8PM. Good seats still available here!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

and I bought the lp based on your review, 25 years ago! still sounds good! wish I could go....