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Artist: V/A

Album: GRLZ

Label: Crippled Dick Hot Wax

Review date: Nov. 17, 2005

Five years out and the post-punk revival's fated end creeping up. Records which were available for not too much money in the ‘90s suddenly rose in demand with the millennial shift, and with them came reissues and compilations, and the inevitable acceptance of bands that sounded like Gang of Four. What started out as a surging wake of rediscovery has left behind the requisite driftwood and detritus to clutter the shores of nightlife and underground music. And while it’s not of the level that would inspire a Disco Demolition Night – though nobody knows for certain what’s going to happen with all those unsold Radio 4 records – people generally seem to be getting tired of the associations that stem from this music; New York City, attitude, cocaine, stupid outfits, Last Night’s Party. Even the most nebulous-sounding of bands from the original era (say, the Pop Group), are being stripmined, with the original sentiments that added the fire and fury this music once possessed removed and repurposed to fit needs they don’t quite match.

To that end, releasing a compilation of music from the original post-punk/disco era made by women and mixed-gender groups is somewhat of a revelation. As punk rock kicked down the doors for the criteria of what it took to be in a band, so it followed that the barriers that traditionally kept women out of the spotlight as songwriters and musicians were pushed aside, too. And considering that some of the longtime reissue holdouts (Delta 5 and Maximum Joy, both featured here) are about to have retrospectives released, the timing couldn’t have been better for GRLZ to hit the shelves. Compiled with an ear for exuberance and rediscovery, the twelve tracks represented here favor independence and a uniqueness of expression; music as action and gleefully ignorant of that which would otherwise hold it back, including backlash.

Downers like Malaria! and Poison Girls are nowhere to be found, and there aren't any Total Coelo or Bangles plastic pop tracks, either. GRLZ is all the better for not being all-inclusive; the songs here are certified stompers, and have lost no steam in the years since their release. From the mutronic, out-of-control funk of Maximum Joy’s “Stretch,” the Slits’ bottom-heavy and grooved-out rendition of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and the no-wave rap of JaJaJa’s “Katz Rap,” to more subdued and dubbed out nighttime offerings by Rip Rig + Panic, the Sade-esque Anna Domino, and New Age Steppers, there’s an undeniable accent on musical freedom as dance music reflected here. The disc peaks with Bow Wow Wow’s relentless “C-30 C-60 C-90 Go!,” an ode to the audio cassette as a tool of liberation, glorifying shoplifting, home-taping, and weaponry as the key to gleefully smashing the system that ironically kept the band afloat. It’s their best track by far. Ludus caterwauls with “Breaking the Rules,” an electro-Vaudevillian tapdance to sexual liberation. Industrial Records footnote Dorothy, who released only one single in her career, resurfaces with “Softness,” all burbling synth-funk and come-hither romantic whispers set to an unstoppable beat.

Bouncy rhythms, rampant energy, jubilant screams and confident arrangements tie these tracks together as much as their made-by-women status. These elements help to make GRLZ relevant where other retrospectives of the era have failed, by underlining the “why” of this music instead of the “when” or “where.” Amazingly, the “why” shouldn’t be a question we should have to ask in the first place, and if it takes a compilation to make us realize it, maybe the revival is already dead. None of us can lick the crumbs from Delta 5’s table. Mind your own business.

By Doug Mosurock

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