Simplified version: five-piece band rise up from the scuzzy L.A punk scene at the turn of the 80’s, get cleaned up, smash out two all-time great pop singles on their debut LP and fracture, leaving us with fond memories and Belinda Carlisle.
I love the Go-Go’s Beauty And The Beat, it makes me the sort of happy that only boppy power-pop new-wave ever does. I came late to this LP, not being a hip enough 9 year old to appreciate it in 1981, it took me another 30 years to get there. And so it goes.
1537 fave ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ was the product of Jane Wiedlin and Terry Hall’s brief affair when the Go-Go’s supported the Specials, it’s a lovely laid back start to Beauty And The Beat. I have always been a sucker for the jaunty dignity of the whole shebang. Let’s face it any song with a video described as having the ‘band members in a carefree tableaux’ is a goddamned winner for me^.
1537 even more fave ‘We Got The Beat’ is just a perfect, perfect, perfect pop song* and the provocation behind much kitchen-based dancing in my house over the years; sadly I have never had the opportunity to dance to it in public, which must mean that my kitchen is the best club in town. The bit where it all breaks down leaving just the beat is a real killer-diller.
Glorious though these two tracks are there’s a whole lot more to enjoy on Beauty And The Beat.
Tonight I am grooving to, umm, ‘Tonite’ in particular, something about the way the melodies in it stack up just hit home. The guitar line sounds like early Cure, a little fragile maybe but the good ol’ American production makes sure there’s no sloppiness, endearing or otherwise, in the house of the double Go’s. The beefed up bottom end** and the belting vocals carry us home in irresistible fashion.
Ditto ‘Lust To Love’, another absolute winner in the hunter-becomes-the-hunted lyrical vein. The forceful bass playing of Kathy Valentine drives this beastie hard, a slightly rawer cousin of the sound of the Cars and Carlisle gives it the full Benetar.
We stray off the strip into a murkier alley for ‘This Town’, the darkest offering here and a real highlight for me. I love the way you get a sudden whiff of the rotting garbage behind the sunny façade here, a melange of catty girls, pretty boys, dreamers, whores and a whole mess of discarded stars. It’s a great moment on Beauty And the Beat.
I could bore you about each and every track here, except maybe ‘You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)’, which is a far better title than song. The playing is great throughout, nothing virtuoso but everything done with utter commitment and oodles of panache, so basically way better and more likable than virtuoso. Charlotte Caffey stands out for me with some really interesting guitar lines.
The Go-Go’s sounded great and had cool to burn. They were fun and made great, danceable music that rewarded close listening. Not many bands get to combine all those great things. Sadly they never quite lit up the same way and so consistently as Beauty And The Beat again – relationships, chemicals, all the usual good stuff intervened and drained all the joy out of things. And so it goes.
But let us just remember the fun, frills and thrills of the Go-Go’s in full effect, spin the LP and marvel at the vision of the band members in a carefree tableaux.
P.S: This is freaking excellent. Oh Belinda, you got the beat but Jane Wiedlin is still my fave:
^visible undies in the fountain scene being a bonus, obvs.
*yeah, yeah, power-pop, new wave, whatever – it is all just great pop music at the end of the day.
**sadly, not unlike my own these days.