Girls At Our Best!: Pleasure, 3CD Deluxe Digipak Edition

album review

Girls at our best! Pleasure (3CD Deluxe Digipak Edition) Cherry Red

3CD/DL

Released May 27, 2022

The album, singles, sessions and unreleased demos plus two “unreleased live concerts from 1981” – essentially the complete recorded works of Girls At Our Best! in a sumptuous box on three discs. Ged Babey, a boy at worst, criticizes.

Like I said previously here, Going Nowhere Fast / Hot Girls by Girls At Our Best! is one of the best punk pop singles ever…

Phil Newall reviewed the 2014 reissue of Pleasure Optic Nerve here… where it begins: ‘Girls at our best! emerged from the Leeds punk scene in 1979 and were frankly responsible for some of the best post punk pop of the era.

Completers, collectors, Girls At Our Best! Superfans and pedants alike will want to know what separates this release from previous reissues: well, a (recorded) interview from 1981, an unreleased 1978 demo “Atribute” by James Alan and Judy Evans’ previous band, The Butterflies and ‘Boys At Our Best’, a demo of the GAOB’s final recording session. Disc 2 is a ‘superb live gig recorded at the University of Edinburgh on 2/11/81’, according to the band’s split.

If you want more information – click here. If you want my opinion….

Live discs really aren’t as good as I expected. Recorded a few days apart, the set list is virtually identical and the bootleg quality is only really worth listening to once, when you have a decent recording. Although well recorded, the performance is a bit chaotic and the vocals mostly waver. The girls were at their best in the studio, it seems…

It’s great to have everything in a nice package and for the price it’s great value for money, if you still collect music on CDs.

Pleasure – the original album still sounds great – but somehow more quaint and dated than I expected. I attribute this to the fact that I have learned to appreciate Celestial much more than ever and also that I can’t help but feel that Girls At Our Best were more of an inspiring “idea group” rather than a great all-around band – especially as a live act.

The combination of the Banshees and Buzzcocks guitar, the melodic bass playing that leads the songs – time signature changes and the eerie voice of Judy Evans: the backing vocalist sings feminist irony and sarcasm, meant they were full ideas…but not as fully realized as they could have been.

Some of the ideas were also second-hand: the magazines “I wanted your heart”, break and outro of improvisation are adapted and reused on Warm Girls. I’m Beautiful Now opens with very familiar Clash chord changes, Getting Nowhere Fast owes something to the Mekons in its structure. It was all part of what made GAOB great at the time – their songs were instantly likable due to their familiarity. They were also more “fun” than the more austere Au Pairs and the sharp Delta 5.

Perhaps the passage of time has meant that GAOB’s memory has grown stronger than their actual work. Everything is “legendary”, “seminal” and vintage these days – still, it’s just old and part of the nostalgia and retro-mania industry. When the future looks shitty. All we have is the past.

Girls at our best! did their best, and are perhaps best celebrated, enjoyed and remembered on 7 inch vinyl and in 3 minute 30 second bursts.

(What a cynical review!) Many of you may disagree – and perhaps rightly so. My other current listens (for future reviews) have been Wire and Eater’s upcoming albums – “lost”, cleaned up recordings that although “old” sound “brand new”, and a box set of the Milkshakes – which sounds elementary and inspiring. So maybe Girls At Our Best didn’t sound so good in comparison.

My reviews are a personal, considered opinion – not a consumer guide or career overview… and I just had one horrible thought: Maybe Girls At Our Best was the wet leg of their day! (Which is either the highest recommendation or the worst condemnation imaginable, depending on your perspective.)

Buy from Cherry Red

All the words Ged Babey

The videos are from Jez Alan’s Youtube channel and are presumably from the same source as the album releases, but maybe not…

Jack L. Goldstein