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A NWOBHM Classic - 87%

Ancient Sunlight, December 22nd, 2014

Along with the many masculine punk-influenced outfits that dominated the NWOBHM came Girlschool, an all-girl band with a rotating cast of singers on its first two albums. The first cries of dissent condemned them as a mere novelty band, possibly even selling their gender, but looking at the band members it becomes obvious they were hardly capable of doing that. Instead, they played fine early metal, lacking just a little edge. If they had gone one step further, treaded that one extra mile, they could have been truly great. As it is, they were a little too tame and poppy to make them a huge metal outfit.

It is a shame they are not more well known. After the success of their first two albums, and a collaboration with Motörhead, they produced a few albums of horrible wannabe LA Glam. You can call them out for selling out, but many great NWOBHM outfits did it, including Saxon, Diamond Head and Raven, while many of the heavier bands faded into a wistful obscurity (Warfare, Tank). They returned in all their glory later, and are still rocking. In summation: screw the politics, just listen. These girls rock! As I said, they are just a little too light; but let that go and you're in for a great ride.

They had several singers in the early albums – three different girls all took on the lead singing duty. That is why you will hear many different voices. The approach is unusual, but works well. The three singers all have different voices, and the different qualities are exploited well. On later records, Kim Mcauliffe who sings the opening, middle and closing tracks, became the sole singer, and developed a more raspy tone, but here all singers have bright, high female voices. That technicality has more than a mere novelty value too: the singers soar above the instrumentals with an indefinably appealing tone. There is something very bright, very innocent about it, which contrasts with the punk influences and heavy tone to create a singularly personal sound. Girlschool, like the other big NWOBHM bands, certainly had a very personal sound. The very feminine vocal inflections, far from detracting from the album, give it an original edge.

For a first album, this is incredibly consistent and personal too. For a band to have crafted a very personal sound, and nearly a dozen worthwhile songs, by the time they record their debut, is uncommon. Many other NWOBHM started off similarly strong, sure, because they were around for longer; but looking at bands like Saxon and Warfare, it is clear some still needed to home their craft. Girlschool was ready from the get-go.

All the riffs are lovable and catchy at first hearing, while the lyrics merely tickle the ear before they are forgotten. It is through the slightly rowdy, mischievous and even metal delivery that they become gold. The girls are "Not for sale / Not for sale"; and indeed they have "Nothing to lose / Nothing to lose", as they proudly sing. I buy it! A favorite track is Emergency, which Motörhead covered with Fast Eddie behind the microphone. I must say I massively prefer the edgy Girlschool version, which makes me want to run for an emergency phone while air-guitaring along.

The sound is often associated with Motörhead, due to their collaborations and support; but Motörhead is raw and thrashy, whereas Girlschool is refined and mischievous. The former calls to mind cigarette smoke and spikes, the latter whiskey and tight leather. The members of Girlschool were poppier, to be sure, but far from delicate princesses. Girlschool wasn't a small novelty, a delicate flower adorning great ruins, but a powerhouse in and of itself. Their recent touring with Raven proves as much, as they still rock.

It was produced by legendary producer Vic Maile, who also handled the excellent production on Ace of Spades, and worked with the likes of Hendrix and Zeppelin before that. For a NWOBHM record released in 1980, this is a miracle. Everything is just right. They couldn't have dreamed of better production. And you know what? They deserved it. This album is great! Lemmy saw it, and I hope you will see it too. Give it a spin.