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The Bangles, Doll Revolution

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A couple years ago, I remember seeing both the Bangles and Go-Go’s as separate subjects of VH-1’s “Behind the Music” wages-of-excess series. Both outings ended on the requisite upbeat note: telling nostalgic new wavers that the two girl groups had re-formed and were putting together new material.
It was Belinda and co. who first came out with new product: last year’s God Bless the Go-Go’s, a nicely tough-edged collection that owed as much to the band’s punk roots as it did the retro pop sound that sold their 80’s hits. Now the Bangles have followed suit with their reunion disc, Doll Revolution (Koch), and it’s better than I know I expected. Between these two groups and the Buzzcocks, I’m reassessing my stance on rock reunions.
As a band, the Bangles generally stuck to the folk-rock side of the Cali pop street: a little Grass Roots here (even did a remake of “Where Were You When I Needed You?”), some Association there (what was “Eternal Flame” but a rewrite of “Never My Love”?) The new release doesn’t alter this much: though it opens with a rockin’ version of the title cut (one of the more enduring racks from Elvis Costello’s When I Was Cruel), it quickly settles into VH-1 friendly poppery. Gossamer harmonies a-plenty, throaty vocals by all four Bangles, economical but memorable electric and acoustic guitarwork, plus lots of prominately mixed drumming.

Several tracks in particular stand out: Vicki Petersen’s rueful “Rain Song” makes ample use of her yep-I’ve-been-there voice, while her “Single By Choice” delivers its forthright sentiments with a (relative) starkness that stands out from the band’s usual sonic sweetenings. Michael Steele’s “Song for A Good Son” is a surprisingly grim folk ballad that lyrically sneaks up on you, while “Mixed Messages” sounds like something Christine McVie could’ve sung during her band’s peak. “Nickel Romeo” provides the best showcase for the band’s “Going Down to Liverpool” sixties-styled airiness, while “Ride the Ride” propulsively resuscitates eighties dance rock guitar. Even the inevitable too-pretty Susanna Hoffs love song, “Something That You Said,” provides a good vehicle for the big-eyed flirt, though it would’ve been cooler if they’d chosen a less obvious track for the disc’s first video.
Back when those “Behind the Music” eps first aired, if you’d asked me which of the two 80’s hitmakers would’ve come up with the better reunion album, I probably wouldn’t have said the Bangles. Yet, cut for cut, Doll Revolution is as strong as All Over the Place, the band’s underrated pre-video-hits long-player. Let’s hear it for pop surprise and the doll revolution. . .
ADDENDUM: Almost skipped mentioning a limited edition bonus DVD that’s included. It contains the “Something That You Said” video plus tracks of the group’s first zippy single from 1981 (back when they were calling themselves the Bangs). Both cuts are enjoyably unpolished and energetic – sound like something that might’ve collected on a Girls in the Garage collection. Definitely worth snagging before the “limited” is reached. . .

(Note: Last July, a Blogcritics piece announcing the American release of this disc contained a cut-by-cut review of the import. The import edition contains the two Bangs tracks as bonus cuts on the album disc and does not include the DVD extras.)

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.
  • Ben

    Sorry if this is off topic, but is there a policy that BlogCritics authors must use HTML formatting in their titles? It’s not good for news aggregators.

  • Eric Olsen

    Ben, there is no HTML in this post at all, including the title.

  • throaty vocals…mmmmmmm

  • Ben

    Not the title of the page. The title of the post has Doll Revolution in italics and it ends up in your news feed.

  • Actually, I did place html italics coding in the title (and have historically done so), but I didn’t know it could interfere with anything.

  • Just changed it.

  • Eric Olsen

    Oh, I see what you mean. Bill, could you please send me an email telling me where you got your pic address from Amazon for the Television story? I can’t figure it out.

  • Ben

    Thanks for the change.

    Actually, putting HTML in the title would be fine if you could somehow filter it out for the news feed. I emailed Eric about it earlier in the week, but I don’t think he knew what I was talking about until now.

  • Actually, Ben, I control the RSS feed. And I’ve considered stripping HTML from titles for HTML display purposes, too. I do in some instances, I’ll add the RSS feeds to that list.

    And on-topic, my wife is a huge fan of the Bangles, so I think I might have found a Christmas present. Thanks!

  • Er, and Ben, try the RSS feeds now.

  • Ben

    Looks great now. Thanks!

  • Coincidentally, I was watching disc 3 of SNL 25 Years of Music, which features The Bangles performing “Hazy Shade of Winter”. Rickenbackers and big hair.

    I always thought they were the second string Go-Go’s. But some of the solo material isn’t too bad and never got as LA silly as the Go-Go’s, so more of a steady path stylistically.

  • Eric Olsen

    I agree – overall I see the Bangles and Go-Go’s as separate but equal, and both are underrated to this day. Completely apart from gender, they each made some great power pop, played their own instruments, wrote (mostly) their own songs, and wre equally good at rockers and ballads. What’s not to love?

  • And they rock credibly today. Not bad for folks in their 40s. Woo hoo!

  • Great post Natalie – I’d forgotten they were releasing something.

    You made me want to go out and buy it. Or as Phillip said, hint to someone strongly that it would make a good present. I’ll e-mail this page to my girlfriend now 🙂

  • To your girlfriend and to the lovely Phillip — the CD is a great gift idea. Just be sure to include jewelry with it.

  • Hey, half a mo, Temple – Natalie didn’t write the original post. I did!

    And I’m with Eric: though I temperamentally favor the Go-Go’s for their early punkiness and surf inflections, the Bangles were and are a damn fine pop-rock unit.

  • Bill, I didn’t get that message from Temple’s posting. I thought he was just saying that my comment reminded him that the Bangles have new product available. Your name, clearly, is listed as author of the article, and bravo, good job!

  • Don’t mind me. I was just having a Neurotic Writer’s Moment. . .

  • If there’s one thing The Bangles should be celebrated for it is setting a milestone in copyright law. In the 80s, they sued The Swinging Eurudites for releasing the record “Walk With An Erection”. The suit was overturned because the SE’s paid the copyright royalties and the Bangles cashed the cheque. (which lead to Weird Al holding a parade).


    I am a fan of both the Bangles and trhe Go-Go’s, it is good to know both of their reunion albums are worth the price.

    It seems to me that both of these all female bands could play big like rockstars, but keep the music simple, good, and fun, not overwrought or self-parodying.

  • i spent three years touring with the go go’s and another three working as an assistant to belinda carlisle. as many times as i heard the go go’s perform, i never got sick of their music. i think gina shock is one of the greatest drummers in music. the girls work together about 3 weeks out of the year.

    belinda now lives in france and tours europe doing her solo stuff. a couple of years ago i did a bit on belinda for the lifetime network. one thing that i think people never know about her is that she has the most twisted sense of humor.

    anyway, i just thought i would do some name dropping.

    jack e. jett