The story is that Wandsworth school-friends Kim McAuliffe and Enid Williams did not even know how to play when they decided to start their cover band ‘Painted Lady’. Yet here they are, 40 years and 12 albums later, about to release a new disc and go on tour with Motörhead and Saxon. They’re the best — the original — all-girl Brit-Rock Band: They are Girlschool.
They suffered the loss of Kelly Johnson (guitar) along the way (she died of cancer in 2007) but, otherwise, remain remarkably intact. They might not be indestructible, but they’ve certainly been durable. It’s been a prolonged slog. Because, as we all know, it’s a long way to the top, if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll.
Rising during the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and working with the Motörhead producer Vic Maile in those early days, the girls played with everyone from Deep Purple to Slade and from Blue Öyster Cult to Gary Glitter. Though they still swear that it’s not been a struggle. “It’s just a bit of fun...” Kim is fond of saying.
We listened to the new album ‘Guilty as Sin’ produced by the always-in-demand Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy etc. etc.) at the Ecology Room Studios in Kent, England. The release includes ten tracks of melodic — yet gloriously riff-heavy — rock’n’roll. It’s what we have come to expect from the girls.
The album begins with the hectic ‘Come the Revolution’ which bubbles and fizzes like dark beer on the turn. The drum-work (Denise Dufort ) is sharp and exceptionally good. The vocals are a tad ‘Girls Aloudy’. It is as if the English 1990’s sunshine act ‘Shampoo’ were singing along to a Sex Pistols/ Beastie Boys backing track. Therefore, this is less Bikini Kill — more bubblegum pop. That said, about 2 minutes in, a searing guitar slices through all the rhythms. Then things take a cool turn. This is fresh, attractive and should gain maximum radio play.
‘Take it Like a Band’ is one of the tracks that the band have already tested out on audiences in the U.S. It’s wildly exciting. But panic is controlled. It’s all about the ups ‘n’ downs and the bumps ‘n’ bruises associated with band-life on the road. Like the tarmac itself, this has wild emotion, rumble-strips of heavy drums and strident chords.With a rash of asphalt guitars riding along the stormy waves leading up to Jackie’s guitarma. Then it knocks you right on the head.
We like the title song ‘Guilty as Sin’ most of all. There is something reassuringly glitter-glam about it. It brings with it pleasant memories of big boots pounding on beer-stained floors and helping to tape shiny discs onto jumble-sale top hats. It has a consistent pulse-pumping beat and more strut than a fallow buck on a mission. Yet it bites and scraps like a bobcat excited by a new scent.
The surprise on this release (there is always a surprise on a Girlschool album) is the cover song ‘Staying Alive.’ [sic] Yes, that’s right. The Bee Gees number from 1977. We have always wondered about the line “I’ve been kicked around. Since I was born…” Not really a man’s experience is it? Well, here, the girls make sense of it. Because, from their perspective, the lyrics take on a whole new significance. This has a fine surging beat, quality guitars and the frequent ‘Gibbsy’ mannerisms that will have you smiling.
Girlschool are a great showband. All they wanna do is party and have some fun. Is there anything wrong with that? It’s refreshing and honest to be that way.
Yes, there are improvised musical patterns between moments of riffarama … but there is more than just a touch of wistful nostalgia here. Not that it’s at all schmaltzy! No, it is not, but these songs will make you feel a bit homesick for those better days. You know, those ones we once had.
On tour with Motörhead and Saxon
Nov 15 Zenith Paris w/ Motörhead, Saxon Paris, France
Nov 17 Mitsubishi Eletric Halle w/ Motörhead, Saxon Dusseldorf, Germany
Nov 18 Saarlandhalle Saarbrücken, Germany
Nov 20 Zenith w/ Motörhead, Saxon Munich, Germany
Nov 21 Zenith w/ Motörhead, Saxon Munich, Germany
Nov 24 Jahrhunderthalle w/ Motörhead, Saxon Frankfurt Am Main, Germany
Nov 25 MHP Arena w/ Motörhead, Saxon Ludwigsburg, Germany
Nov 27 Max-Schmeling Halle w/ Motörhead, Saxon Berlin, Germany
Nov 28 Sporthalle Hamburg w/ Motörhead, Saxon Hamburg, Germany
Nov 30 Scandinavian Congress Center Århus C, Denmark
Dec 01 Scandinavium w/ Motörhead, Saxon Goteborg, Sweden
Dec 03 Oslo Spektrum Oslo, Norway
Dec 04 Hovet Stockholm, Sweden
Dec 06 Hartwall Arena w/ Motörhead, Saxon Helsinki, Finland
Jan 23 City Hall w/ Motörhead Newcastle, United Kingdom
Jan 24 Clyde Auditorium w/ Motörhead, Saxon Glasgow, United Kingdom
Jan 26 Apolo O2 w/ Motörhead, Saxon Manchester, United Kingdom
Jan 27 Oasis w/ Motörhead, Saxon Swindon, United Kingdom
Jan 29 Eventim Apolo w/ Motörhead, Saxon London, United Kingdom
Jan 30 Eventim Apollo Hammersmith London, United Kingdom
Feb 01 Zenith Arena Lille, France