The Bangles: All Over The Place (1984)

The Bangles are probably best remembered for the more polished mid-80s pop hits that followed this album, and for -- alongside The Go-Go's -- mainstreaming the notion that an all-women rock band could produce fantastic, original music on their own terms (something taken for granted in a post-Riot Grrl/Liz Phair world, but sadly still novel in the early 80s).  But I'm more a sucker for their lesser known earlier work, their initial EP and LP, which saw the band crafting catchy 60s-styled pop without the more professional flourishes of later work.

The band arose from SoCal's early 80s Paisley Underground.  Whereas peers like the Rain Parade offered a more Byrdsy psychedelic groove, and the Dream Syndicate had a more droning, electric edge borrowing from the Velvet Underground and Crazy Horse, the Bangles were unabashedly pop, drawing inspiration from British Invasion bands and late 60s top 40 mainstays like the (pre-Sgt. Pepper) Beatles, the Hollies and the Mamas & the Papas, with a preponderance of the jangly Rickenbacker guitar sound that would come to dominate college radio.

The band crashes out of the gate with some surprisingly fully-formed originals, catchy and durable tracks like semi-hit single "Hero Takes a Fall" and my personal favorite "James," one of the most infectious tunes of the post-new wave jangle pop 80s.  "Tell Me" is so instantly familiar sounding that I was convinced it was a cover of some great lost Troggs song, shocked to discover it's an original; while "Restless" is a Mamas & Papas dead-ringer with a more modern edge.  Throughout, Vicki Peterson and Susannah Hoffs, who trade vocal duties (with a couple from Vicki's sister Debbi), prove themselves thoroughly adept songwriters.

They do throw in a couple covers, which fit nicely into the package -- a nice take on the Merry-Go-Round's minor Nuggets classic "Live," and a faithful yet suitably exuberant cover of Katrina & The Waves' "Going Down To Liverpool" (shortly before the Waves themselves found some pop success), which doesn't necessarily add to the original but features some lovely harmonies while highlighting the band's taste in great cover choices (confirmed by the following album's updating of Big Star's "September Gurls").

The album is non-stop fun (maybe aside from the ballad closing the original LP), and while the band wasn't breaking new ground (gender barrier-crashing aside), at a time of post-punk seriousness, the Bangles were unafraid to embrace unabashedly light and fluffy late 60s bubblegum pop, perhaps one of the reasons the album holds up so well today rather than sounding like a dated relic of its time.

Here's the video for "Hero Takes A Fall":
 Here's that great video (with Leonard Nimoy!) for "Going Down to Liverpool":
And here's a terrific live take on "James" (establishing them as a killer live act):




Comments

  1. I worked at a record store for a few years. Remember that scene in High Fidelity where Rob says he is going to sell five copies of The Beta Band? That's what it was like when we put All Over the Place on the turntable. I swear that we sold a copy or two every time we played it. I have so much love for this record and was so disappointed by where the band went right after this.

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    1. I could listen to Going Down to Liverpool any day of the year. I worked at a record store in the mid 80s. One week we played Life's Rich Pageant nonstop. Almost got fired for trashing Boston's 3rd album, which my boss insisted on playing as nauseum.

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    2. If I walked into a record store and heard Boston's 3rd album playing, I'd be running out trying to find a better store (i.e. one playing the Bangles or R.E.M.). That said, as a child of the 70s, I'd be lying if I tried to deny that Boston's debut was pretty freakin' huge when it came out.

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