Sunday, April 13, 2008

Underrated Ladies of the 80s

The 80s were a good time to form a band, especially if you were a bunch of girls with homemade haircuts and a lot of pent-up angst. Suddenly, punk made it just fine to yell out your frustrations to a staccato beat. It was so refreshing to be angry and not hear, "Jeez, put a CORK in it," over and over again. There was plenty of room for melodic pop too, combining self-expression and good old attitude. It wasn't a time to sell a million recorded units. It was a time to Express Yourself.

Formerly named Kleenex (until threatened by a corporate tissue-backed lawsuit), LiLiPUT was a Swiss band that started out raw and thrashy and ended up kind of lightly pop-experimental. Kill Rock Stars put out a 2-disc retrospectiveof their stuff from 1978 to 1983 and it sounds great. I don't know why I myself don't own it (mentally pointing to my head and mouthing, "idiot").

LiLiPUT - Eisiger Wind, 1981. This is a collage by FUNK'n'ROLL, featuring great early-80s ladies' bands with LiLiPUT (man, that name is hard to type) accompaniment.

The Raincoats reformed a few years ago and toured but I never hear any of their songs on the radio. They started out very minimalist and unschooled with a violin sawing away, and got all drums & bass world-beaty toward the end of their first run. Kurt Cobain was a big fan. Here's one of those videos of an album cover so you can hear an old song, The Void (which I guess Hole covered--I'm not much of a Hole follower). The album is their first from 1980 and self-titled. They got slicker as they went along, but were always quirky and they have a very devoted following.


Let's casually segue into some Romeo Void. Lead singer Deborah Iyall is a poet and artist. I used to see her all the time at shows. After the bust-up of their band, she and her husband quietly took in the likes of The Butthole Surfers, Camper Van Beethoven, and whoever else was playing in a small club in San Francisco. I never got up the nerve to say hi. I should have--she's cool. A Girl in Trouble was a top-40 hit but was controversial since it's about a girl getting an abortion. MTV rarely played this video--that might be because it truly sucks (although, in 1985, that never stopped them). But really, it's bad; although Benjamin Bossi's sax is great. Remember sax solos? Neither do I. You have to dig out your 80s records to hear them. Deborah is so bittersweet. Close your eyes and listen...

The Waitresses - I Know What Boys Like, 1982. People either like this or hate it, but I've always thought Patty Donahue's delivery is really funny. She's celebrating the art of being a complete tease. You gotta love that as a musical theme. I heard an interview with founding member Chris Butler on NPR and he said Donahue was a tough chick who based her style on film noir femme fatales. As cool as this sounds, The Waitresses couldn't catch a break, even after composing the theme song to "Square Pegs." Ending on a sad note, Donahue died in 1996 from lung cancer. But the sly "come-hither now go away" look in her eyes will live on forever:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

let's not forget The Yeastie Girls who gave us "stick a carrot up your butt if you're in a rut..."