All is forgiven
Return of the Valley of the Go-Go's
Fourteen songs into this 36-song retrospective, and you're still not to the first Hit. In fact, maybe five of the selections could have been considered Hit Singles; the rest went largely unheard or unheeded by an audience that forever categorized the Go-Go's as dispensable pop commodities whose ascension on (and fall from) the pop charts coincided with the rise (and fall) of new wave. And to dismiss them now for the same reasons would be equally as foolish because to like the Go-Go's in 1994 (or 1984) is to like pop music and all the sheer banality-wisdom it carries in its shiny baggage. This isn't a revisionist's irony, but honest affection: at their best--on a good hunk of Beauty and the Beat, most of Talk Show, and the smattering of B-sides and unreleased outtakes and live recordings included here--the Go-Go's had pop music down like the reformed ex-punks they were early on, in love with the genre because it could contain so much power and subversion within its limits.
The early "punk" cuts post-date "Cherry Bomb" by three years, but the Go-Go's still do the Runaways-and-Pistols better than Bikini Kill or Bratmobile (in her heyday, Belinda Carlisle was scrappier than Kathleen Hanna, by far more subversive and "political"--see "Party Pose"); the Beauty and the Beat selections hold up better than anyone could have expected; and by the time they got to Talk Show, they were the perfectly realized pop-rock band, catchy and tough all at once. The three new closers provide the hope this current reunion is more than a nostalgic cash-in, though a tour follows.
If you're going to be a rock and roll band in the 1990s, don't act like you're doing anything new; that's the mark of the arrogant fool and the pretentious egoist. The Fastbacks have been making albums for 12 years now, and they haven't changed a lick: they still play and sound like a band born on the cusp of punk and new-wave, Thin Lizzy-Buzzcocks-Ramones-Joan Jett power riffs poured over the innocent and lonely words of a man that are sung by two women who imbue them with intentional giddiness and beauty. Nothing new, but new nonetheless. -Robert Wilonsky
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