on 21 July 2014
Much is made of the fact that the Bangles hard rocking garage sound that first brought them to apparent prominence (yet it didn't, for as late as 1985, even with one very accomplished album out, no one seemed to be listening in droves until a certain song called 'Manic Monday' appeared in 1986, and by that time, the girls had become far more melodic, with a more opened up and eclectic sound. Sniffers and die-hard moaners can call it "dumbing down" or selling out (what a laugh, surely you'd have to be selling in the first place), but the unique and highly attractive second album "Different Light" was the moment everyone got a life and realised-wow, a proper dead serious all-girl-group who write, sing, and play their instruments. And not daft like the early eighties examples were-Girlschool, Belle Stars, and yes, the Go-Gos too. Give me Belinda solo any day.
But "Different Light" had been a difficult record within the stifling stranglehold of producer David Kahne; the songs were beautiful generally, with a few that were more kooky, but the atmosphere i the studio was charged with uncertainty, and there were casualties.Glad to be shot off him, the girls took to working with record producer and novelist Davitt Sigerson who created a more relaxed working vibe, resulting in their finest album ever, and just like Abba, who started with equally odd Euro-folk ditties before they exploded into a perfect hook-filled machine of A-grade song chart brilliance, and finally became the respected emotionally resonant and achingly powerful act fuelled by excellent songcraft and musicianship they're finally recognised as today, Bangles can be and are proud of a highly sophisticated set of songs that show off just about everything (sorry) they can be proud of, and best of all, this cherry pop re-release (long overdue, yet how pointless of them not to release it with the earlier two several years before, which were already overdue themselves) includes what should have been the final song on side 2, but was dismissed to accompany the ignored side of the 'Eternal Flame' single. A truly rude state of affairs, not least cos not only did it suit the album fully, but it meant Debbi would have had three songs and not just two.
The mid-eastern tinge and pounding sexuality of first song and lead single 'In Your Room' is at once raw yet refined, yet with all the beauty of offerings like the luscious poet-ballad 'Something To Believe In', from bassist Michael, peppy 'Waiting For You' featuring Susanna and delightfully orchestral 'Be With You' from Debbi which marries drama and wistfulness to great degree; indeed when you look beyond the gorgeous production and unerring harmonies, you realise that the girls have actually put their darkest material to date on it. 'Glitter Years' rumbles along gracefully, proof hard riffing exists alongside melody, as it references Michael's time in the Runaways, 'Watching The Sky' turns increasingly psychotic, Vicki's roaring towards the end like the tuneful evoking of a banshee, she gets the edge on the usually dark Michael with this and two others, both suicide songs, one as an observer ('Bell Jar'), the other as a wish for herself ('Crash And Burn'). And quite an ingenious aside is that they're so painful without being morose, suggestive rather than overly detailed, but that's just as powerful as the listener is invited to complete the final picture scripture themselves. 'Complicated Girl' from Michael possibly takes the similarly written 'If She Knew What She Wants' from the previous album and plays out an even more solidly configured female protagonist amid a soft and perky country-lite backdrop of chiming guitar. Equally vivid is the ache and heart-stirring sadness of the lovely Vicki tune 'Make A Play For Her Now' which seems to invoke a theatre setting among a garden as the sun goes down to gentle tragedy, and Debbi's powerful and stirring 'Some Dreams Come True', a fast-paced piece of sonic perfection, but the album's utter plateau must be the towering sway and blood-rushing zing of 'I'll Set You Free', one of their best ever songs and prime candidate for one of the best songs of the 80s or any decade. Remaining is 'What I Meant To Say', as mentioned earlier, finally on here where it should always have been, only I play it as track 7 instead of 14. Chugs along with gusto, but still classy and lyrically eventful as the rest of the album.
There are two other bonus tracks, a unfortunately beefed up remix of 'I'll Set You Free' that is longer, but destroys most of the audacious harmonising and sleek musicianship of the album cut, and the extended version of 'In Your Room'. The booklet is a lavish job that includes all the lyrics, apart from 'What I Meant To Say' (daft as all of Kim Wilde's remasters from cherry pop include her b-side/extra track words). Also included are some lovely photographs of the darling quartet taken from that time. Best album of 1988, so grand it even beats Kim Wilde's much feted "Close", Sandra's "Into A Secret Land" and Til Tuesday's final masterpiece "Everything's Different Now" and the best stocking filler, though t would have spent most of 1989 selling for all that, making it possibly the best album of both years. Like with Kim's remasters, the sound is hardly an improvement on the original 1988 CD (only offensively overrated gasbags tend to get perfect album updates audio-wise), but it's still the peerless album it is, and I still happily bought it, even though I'd clicked on the old copy not long before, once the cassette died.
I deliberately avoided mentioning the gorgeous scorching ballad 'Eternal Flame' everyone goes on about, it's exactly as lovely as everyone says, but it is surrounded by "Everything" else easily of standard, and some even better. A bunch of skilled session musicians clearly helped the blend to true perfection, and some outside writers were brought in to help (as on most anyone's records), but unlike "Different Light", the girls were all involved on every song in far more detail, and their satisfaction comes through admirably. My only gripe is with the public and label and scene as ever-only four singles were picked, and no more. Every song was a perfect single, still is, and to anyone and everyone who's lost, forgotten or missed out on this entirely, regarding it rudely as just a vessel to hold 'Eternal Flame', you who lack "Everything", have nothing.