Friday, June 24, 2016

The Bangles - Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bangles! (Album Review)

When listening back to a legendary band’s earliest recordings, there are a couple of different scenarios that can play out. Ranging from the dismissive end of “Wow, this sucks” to the middle ground of “Wow, they’ve come a long way” to the higher end of “Wow, they’ve just always had it,” it’s always a gamble for an artist or band to revisit their greenest days in a single cohesive album. Sometimes the best they can hope for is just the understanding acceptance of the completist’s desire for everything.

And then they are collections like Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bangles! from the Paisley Underground’s most celebrated band.

Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bangles! is a 16-track collection of the band’s first recordings spanning the years 1981 through 1984. Capturing the band before they ruled the pop charts and had MTV on lockdown with hits singles like “Manic Monday,” “Walk Like An Egyptian,” and “Eternal Flame,” Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bangles! highlights the fact that what made The Bangles special – the 60s sun-soaked harmonies, the garage-rock rumble, the psychedelic influences, the richly-textured instrumental interplay – was always present. Even in its most unpolished incarnations, there’s no denying that the band - Susanna Hoffs and the Peterson sisters (Vicki and Debbie), as well as original bassist Annette Zilinskas and replacement Michael Steele – made fun, original, culture-impacting music that was fueled by, as Hoffs attests, “youthful energy, hope, and blind ambition.”    

While this album was initially released as a download-only LP in 2014, this CD provides fans the opportunity to own these rarities in a physical format for the first time. Longtime out-of-print releases like their debut single from 1981 (“Getting Out of Hand”) and their first eponymous EP from 1982 – the former recorded while they were still known as The Bangs – are presented here, as well as hard-to-find tracks like the instrumental “Bitchen Summer/Speedway” (from 1982’s Rodney on the ROQ Volume III compilation), “NO MAG Commercial” (a rerecording of “Getting Out of Hand” with new lyrics for the L.A. magazine of the same name), and “The Rock & Roll Alternative Program Theme Song” as well.

Rounding out the tracklisting of this stellar gem-packed record are a few unreleased demos and live recordings that include their Bangles-stamped covers of influential songs by The Turtles, Love, and Paul Revere & The Raiders. For a peek into the embryonic, pre-fame version of one of the biggest bands of the ‘80s and earl ‘90s, do not miss this sonic introduction into The Bangles’ back catalog.       

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