Friday, November 1, 2013

Girlschool - Play Dirty

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Play Dirty, the fourth studio album from British all-female rock band Girlschool. The line-up of the band for this record included Kim McAuliffe (guitar and vocals), Kelly Johnson (guitar and vocals), Gil Weston (bass and backing vocals) and Denise Dufort (drums). Additional musicians on these recordings include backing vocals by Lemmy (of Motorhead), Vicki Blue (of the Runaways), Martin Haircut and Paul Sampson. It was produced by Noddy Holder and Jim Lea of Slade. This 1983 release went to number 207 on the US Billboard Album chart and number 66 in the UK.

Side one opens with "Going Under". It features a bit of synth elements up front before spiraling down into a more rock path.

"High and Dry", written by Holder and Lea, is next. The vocals take a spotlight on this one, emphasizing the harmonies of the entire band.

The title track "Play Dirty" has an opening guitar riff that reminds me of some other rock song but for the life of me I cannot place it. I am thinking though that this song might be the first of the two chronologically. Hmmm….

The first single was "20th Century Boy", a cover of the 1973 song by T. Rex. The girls do a great job with this one; lots of energy and a pounding beat that does not quit.

The rapid-fire "Breaking All the Rules" was the B-side to the first single. It has a classic rock vibe to it that brings to mind Sweet‘s “Ballroom Blitz“.

Side two begins with "Burning in the Heat", the second single and also a track by Holder and Lea. It has a Gothic organ opening before shifting gears a few more times in the entire three and a half minutes. It really is a musical potpourri.

The B-side to the second single was "Surrender".

"Rock Me Shock Me" is next. I thought I might have known this song, just based on the title, but I was wrong. It does features a bit of a funky bass line in parts that jumps out.

"Running for Cover" follows.

The album then closes with the rebellious "Breakout (Knob in the Media)".

Play Dirty is one of those out-of-print 80’s albums that you have to dig around the Internet to listen to (thank you, YouTube). This was my first real exposure to Girlschool and in a number of ways their music here reminded me a bit of Joan Jett and Suzi Quatro, 70’s female rock pioneers whom I also enjoy. I have read that fans of the band did not like the direction this record went, that it was too AOR friendly. As someone who liked AOR (album oriented rock) stations growing up, I don’t see that as necessarily a bad thing.

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