Girls At Our Best! - Pleasure (Deluxe Edition)
Even though they only released one album and four singles in their short, three year career, Leeds band Girls At Our Best! were one of the more influential bands coming out of the post-punk era in the late seventies and early eighties. On this outstanding new three CD reissue of that sole album, Pleasure, Cherry Red has included a plethora of bonus material including the A and B sides of their singles, two 1981 concerts, BBC sessions for Richard Skinner and John Peel (Peel was a huge supporter of the band), a previously unreleased 1977 demo from the pre GAOB band The Butterflies and demo from their final recording session.
The box set kicks off with the eleven track Pleasure, which is largely a collection of raw, quirky, upbeat, anything goes pop with an adventurous and experimental side, but almost always overflowing with hooks and topped with Judy Evans infectious high-pitched vocals. The album opens with a one, two, three punch of pop glory with “Pleasure”, “Too Big For Your Boots”, which actually almost sounds like a fast-paced kids tune, and “I’m Beautiful Now”, with its quirky lo-fi blasts of bass guitar. “Waterbed Babies” has them moving into a bit of a more rock direction with some great angular guitars, while “Fun-City Teenagers” is a very bouncy pop track that sounds like it could have been an inspiration for The Housemartins’ “Happy Hour” and is enhanced gloriously with clarinet. The experimentation kicks into high gear on “Â£600,000”, which has a bit of a punk edge and some tribal drumming and continues with “Heaven”, a bouncy, upbeat tune that opens with a combination of angular guitars and keys and as you listen has a bit of a disco vibe buried in it. “China Blue”, “Fast Boyfriends” and “She Flipped” find them shifting back to super catchy pop, always with a little twist, be it a military beat or some short keyboard blasts, before closing things out with more angular guitars and a punkier drive with “Goodbye To That Jazz”. Disc one also contains thirteen bonus songs starting with their four singles. First up is their debut single comprised of “Getting Nowhere Fast”, a pure blast of punk energy full of razor sharp guitars (this was covered by Wedding Present a few years later) and “Warm Girls”, a punkier track once again, but with a darker, early Siouxsie and the Banshees vibe. Single number two found them moving closer to the direction of the album. “Politics!” starts off like a bubbly pop tune, but then about halfway through jabbing guitar licks come into play followed by some aggressive lyrics and vocals, while “It’s Fashion” is more of their distorted take on synth pop. Their third and fourth singles were “Go For Gold”, a song that interestingly added a funkier groove to the mix and a fantastic cover of the traditional American gospel tune “This Train” (these were backed by album tracks “I’m Beautiful Now” and “Fast Boyfriends”). The final seven bonus tracks on disc one are their BBC sessions with Skinner and Peel, both recorded in February of 1981. Although not too far removed from the album versions these make a nice addition to the collection, especially “Getting Beautiful Warm Gold Fast From Nowhere” from the Peel Session, which is an interesting medley of their singles.
Disc two opens with the first of the two previously unreleased concerts. Recorded at Edinburgh University on November 2, 1981 the sound here is really good quality and may be a soundboard recording. It’s definitely interesting to hear them in a live setting and they often come across a little punkier and the bass is a little more prominent than on the studio recordings, but the vocals are at times a bit off-key and the instruments sometimes sound a little out of tune. Also included here are two bonus tracks, the previously unreleased “Atribute” from The Butterflies, who evolved into Girls At Our Best!, and “Boys At Their Best!”, which came from their last studio session before they broke up. The recording from The Butterflies is a little rough but doesn’t really sound too far removed from their work as GAOB!, while the other is an instrumental track that is a little chaotic and has a lot going on. It’s a shame that the vocals were never included, because it sounds like the potential is there for another great track, but definitely sounds incomplete without them.
The second live show, which is on disc three, was recorded at New York City’s The Peppermint Lounge on November 6, 1981, just six days after the other one. Except for one less song, the set list here is exactly the same, but since this is a bootleg audience recording the sound quality isn’t very good. This is really quite unfortunate, because the actual performance and vocals are much better this time around. Closing out the disc is an entertaining radio interview the band did in New York on same day the played The Peppermint Lounge that gives a great background on the band. The box set also contains an outstanding booklet loaded with tons of sleeve cover reproductions and pictures along with an essay on the band. Another highly recommended release from the folks at Cherry Red.