Monday, January 05, 2009

THE GIRLS, BOSTON FREETHINKERS 1976-1979

A record that’s been criminally under-heard and that remains way, way out of print is a posthumous collection called "Reunion" from THE GIRLS. They were a Boston group mucking around the edges of that city’s punk scene around 1976-79, but who had far more in common with the weird noise and avant-futurisms of kindred souls PERE UBU and THE RESIDENTS. They epitomize the free-thinking boundary pushing that a sub-section of the early American punks quickly made their own into after letting punk fuel the internal fire. Where The Girls differed from the aforementioned is the general lack of art-damaged abrasiveness in their music – though there are squiggly oscillations and heaps of guitar and Allen Ravenstein-worthy synth feedback all over their songs, it’s tempered with a real 4/4 rock and roll structure that keeps a solid beat moving throughout.

Pere Ubu’s Hearthan Records imprint actually put out The Girls’ first 45, “Jeffrey I Hear You / The Elephant Man”, the only non-Cleveland thing the label ever thought worthy of bothering with. There’s also traces of MODERN LOVERS playfulness in tracks like “Pedestrian Walk”, which bounces like a Gidget beach party number played in the MIT quad after science class. The rockers that have been my favorites since I first heard this record are “Methodist Church” and “Keep It Simple” – fast, short, sharp shocks of spazz guitar and very busy keyboards shorting out the mixing board in short order.

Singer David Hild often affected this sort of “demented clown” persona in his vocals and lyrics, which conjures up images of a depressed sad sack pouring his scribblings out of notebooks & onto stages with not a care in the world how it’ll be received. True or not, it’s how great art is often made, very similar in feel to the early HALF JAPANESE in that pleasing who-in-god’s-name-are-these-guys-&-where-did-they-come-from way. You probably won’t mistake the Girls’ “Reunion” LP for great art from a higher strata, but as a lost artifact that’s worthy of serious crate digging – well, I hope you don’t have to for long.

Play The Girls - "Keep It Simple"


Download THE GIRLS - "Keep It Simple"
Download THE GIRLS - "Methodist Church"

4 comments:

Roc said...

i have been looking for mor music by these guys since i heard Jeffrey. i was beginning to think they never released anything else. thanks

Mark said...

I knew these guys in Boston - quite well as a matter of fact. They were an absolutely awesome band. The first 2 shows I saw of theirs completely blew my mind. The first was at The Bird Cage, a really sleazy strip club that had punk bands for a really short time - before the owners decided the could make more money by burning it down & collecting on the insurance. The stripper stage was on a riser behind the bar and that's where the bands played. Mark, the guitarist, was like someone wanting to jump out of his skin literally in those days and he would never stop moving when they were playing - and the stuff he was playing was fucking brilliant.

The 2nd show was at the main indie rock club in those days, The Rat in Kenmore Square. I was high, lots of the Girls-loving audience was high and all of the non-Girls audience fled one of the most aggressive sets of art/punk ever - it was Revenge of the Nerds as a punk band - they had the vocals going through some amazing treatments, they had a Bozo The Clown record under the drummers seat so you could hear it in between songs, they were wearing suits they had sprayed with Jesso that weighed 30 lbs or so, it was crazed brilliance and the club is lucky they didn't ask the audience to tear the place down, cause we would have in 2 seconds.

Zontar said...

The Girls are quite simply the best Boston band of the punk era. They, along with Human Sexual Response were the house bands of The Punkt Data Gallery (an artist collective of crazy young mostly Mass Art students). The Girls had connections with The Museum School, the other big Boston Art School. Being a media student at Mass Art and a founding member of Punkt Data I had a lot of dealings with this band. When the Girls played our gallery in the North End they were so loud the cops broke it up. Later I produced 2 shows of them at the Longwood Theater at Mass Art. One was a rock show the other a "performance art" venue. Predictable they did a straight rock show for the art show and went wild at the art show. A highlight was the developmentally challenged fellow who guest sang a cover of Elvis' "Teddy Bear". They also played at our extravaganza at The Boston Architectural Center, but unfortunately, got screwed because of the incompetence of one of our members. They had the biggest house but got only a fraction of the money due them because of a deal made with a band who were not as good, but had a manager.

Mark said...

Hey, Zontar - I was at all those shows you describe - the developmentally challenged "guest singer" was one of the most amazing things I ever saw in my life. As I recall, the sound was not going well that evening - it happens sometimes - and Girls were getting very frustrated playing their own usual stuff - So Robin, who worked with the developmentally challenged and had set up for a group to be bused to the show - invited this one guy he worked with who was a huge Elvis fan. It was probably one of the best moment's in the guest singer's life and was incredibly moving - turned a show that was not going well into something amazing.