Friday, November 8, 2013
Talk Show - The Go-Go's
I saw the Go-Go's play at the Hollywood Bowl last summer. It was the classic line-up minus Kathy Valentine who had injured her wrist and could not perform. Alas since then she has been kicked out of the band. It was a terrific show, I had a great time but I was disappointed that they only did one song from this album, "Head Over Heels." I can't blame them for concentrating on their first two albums for their set list, they were the two that were big hits. I think this album, their third, is their best one though. I was not initially a fan of the band. When "Beauty and the Beat" was released and "We Got The Beat" was all over the radio, I dismissed them as bubblegum. My sister loved them though and bought the album. I heard her playing it and I started to like it. Soon I was a fan too. What was there not to like? Five attractive women playing uptempo New Wave flavored power pop with clever lyrics, that was right in my wheelhouse. I bought and enjoyed their first two albums, but this was the album that really made me fall for them, just in time for them to break up unfortunately. "Talk Show" impressed me immediately with its rocked up sound while still retaining the band's pop sensibility. It is loaded with hooks and musical appeal. It always makes me happy when I listen to it even though it is easily the most unhappy album they ever made. It kicks off with Charlotte Caffey and Kathy Valentine's "Head Over Heels" which was the big hit single off the record. It is a sparkling tune driven by an insistent keyboard riff and a hard driving bass line with noisy guitars on top. It is loaded with pop appeal but the lyrics are dark and express confusion and desperation which seems an accurate reflection of the group's state of mind at the time with the band heading for a break up and drug problems taking their toll as well. It is my favorite Go-Go's song, I played it over and over when I bought this record. Caffey and Jane Wiedlin wrote "Turn To You" which was the other top 40 single on the record. It is another riff-driven rocker with an urgent, rough vocal from Belinda Carlisle with catchy back-up vocals from the group. It has a relentless beat that gets me bopping and features one of the best guitar solos in the band's catalog. It is another big favorite of mine. Despite its hard rocking sound, the song is a poignant plea to a lover to let her into his heart. The big beat continues with Gina Schock and Valentine's "You Thought" which has that synth with big drums sound so popular in the 1980s (much to my chagrin) but fortunately it also has loud guitars too. The song is about communication problems in a deteriorating relationship and it demonstrates the group's growth as lyricists with a lot of evocative imagery. The communication breakdown persists with Valentine and Wiedlin's "Beneath the Blue Sky" which features the great line "I think we're sharing the same lies." This song features another terrific guitar solo on top of a soaring melody that makes this song a real winner for me. Side one concludes with Wiedlin's moody "Forget That Day" which is about being deceived by a lover who loves someone else. Carlisle's plaintive, heartfelt vocal is very expressive. Side two opens with the powerful guitar riff and crisp drumming that drives "I'm the Only One" which Valentine wrote with Carlene Carter and Danny Harvey of the Rockats. This high energy song features more delightful vocal harmonizing from the band in support of Carlisle. It is another song about misunderstandings in a love affair. "Yes or No" is a collaboration between Wiedlin and Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks. The song was released as the third single off the album but it flopped, although not for lack of musical quality. It has a hooky bass line and a catchy chorus that has hit single written all over it. Lyrically it recalls the earlier Go-Go's records with its love 'em and leave 'em ethos as the narrator tries to get a guy to dance with her no strings attached. Wiedlin's optimistic "Capture the Light" is about trying to stay positive and avoiding dark thoughts. Once again jangly guitars and tight drumming result in a very appealing musical concoction. Schock and Wiedlin's "I'm With You" is about the unhappiness of being away from the one she loves presumably because of a tour. Carlisle sings the words with a lot of feeling and the group substitutes a steady groove in place of the rocked up sound on most of the record to reinforce the desperate sadness that permeates the song. The album concludes with Wiedlin, Valentine and Caffey's remarkable ballad "Mercenary." It opens with martial drumming and delicate guitar strumming gradually picking up steam as it builds to the emotional chorus. It is a heart-breaking song about a girl who uses a guy and his unhappiness as a result delivered by Carlisle in one of her best ever vocals. It gives the album a moving finish full of depth and tenderness. Scoff if you will, but I say this is one of the best albums of the 1980s. It obliterates the persona of the Go-Go's as cartoonish party girls with its sensitivity and heartfelt honesty. Its powerful rock sound displays the group's punky roots and musical chops. This album sounds great and it has hardly aged a bit. I find it endlessly appealing and stimulating. Recommended to Bangles fans who wish they weren't so hung up on the 1960s.