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Thursday, October 09, 2008

CD Review: Girlschool - Legacy

Girlschool - Legacy
2008 SPV/Steamhammer
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Let's face it, when it comes to the ladies of heavy metal, Girlschool paid everybody else's dues along with Wendy O. Williams, Lee Aaron and Betsy Bitch. Sure, The Runaways helped usher what was at one time unfortunately viewed as a gimmick, the proposition of an all-female rock 'n roll ensemble. However, ever since they were originally known as Painted Lady, future legends Girlschool deserve the largest credit for cracking the testosterone-fortified armor protecting the overwhelmingly alpha genre of heavy metal. Even when the boys tightened the leather, glitzed the hair and smeared their faces with Covergirl, access for women into the metal spectrum was, by-and-large, through a blowjob of the tour manager or chief engineer before getting any further than that.

Girlschool's 1980 album Demolition and the subsequent year's Hit and Run proved that women could tear some shit up onstage and on record. Though it took many years for the band to garnish their proper due, garnish them they have, just by looking at the gratuitous influx of women in today's metal scene. No longer a freak show or an oddity, Girlschool should be revered by both men and women for providing a snarling alternative to the shameless muff-seeking motif that dominated hard rock and heavy metal in its primary stages.

What was glorious about Girlschool in the eighties was their immediate empowerment and kick-you-in-the-balls daring, and that spirit of snaggletoothed femme rock blares proudly all over Legacy, an album marking testament and tribute to the late Kelly Johnson, who sadly passed last year. Her remaining tribe carries forth Legacy with a purpose, and though Girlschool released the studio album Believe in 2004, by and large, the band has mainly issued live albums and compilations to sustain their reputable name. As a result, Legacy sounds like a band making up for lost time.

Rustling up a slew of guests on Legacy such as Lemmy Kilmister, Phil Campbell, Fast Eddie Clarke, J.J. French, Eddie Ojeda, Tony Iommi, Neil Murray and Ronnie James Dio to spot-check this very game set of songs, Girlschool sound perhaps more relevant now than at the very least 1988's Take a Bite.

The shadows of Kelly Johnson float through a posthumous appearance on Legacy's opening cut "Everything's the Same," an appropriate jumpstart to an album full of raw energy and determination. There's nothing second rate or motion-forcing to this album, despite the assistance of so many third parties. If anything, it's as if Kim McAuliffe, Enid Williams, Denise Dufort and Jackie Chambers wanted their peers to join in their giddy rock party, because Legacy is a largely upbeat endeavor. At times they roll straightforwardly through toe-tapping rockers ala Motley Crue on "Spend Spend Spend," "Whole New World" and the title track, while on others, the Girlschool posse stamps on their pedals with heavier shanks on "Don't Mess Around," "Zeitgeist" and their cover of Motorhead's "Metropolis." Ironically this cover is remiss of Lemmy and Phil Campbell but instead features a juicy solo by Fast Eddie Clarke. The longer you've been in this scene, the cheekier you'll recognize this maneuver as being.

"I Spy" is particularly meaty on the primary riffs even as the song takes a subtle calliope tinge to the verses. Legacy also offers a second version of "I Spy" featuring a very loose duet with Ronnie James Dio as a bonus track. Of course, Legacy has its share of punk laces on "London" and on an update of one of Girlschool's most well-known songs, "Emergency."

For a band that inspired everyone from Lita Ford as a solo artist to The Go Gos to L7 to PJ Harvey to the Lunachicks to Cycle Sluts From Hell and every gal practicing metal and punk today, Girlschool is the cornerstone of it all. To have them come out and deliver a rock solid shot 30 years after getting started is inspiring and here's hoping this stems a second coming for the 'school. Welcome back in full, ladies...

Rating: ****

4 comments:

Metal Mark said...

The first say two tracks had me thinking this was going to be a good one. However after that it became like a mashed up slew of misfires, leftovers and songs that came across like they were trying hard to sound modern and failing mightily. The many guest stars gave it a feeling of desperation like they needed outside help to sell this thing. Very surprisingly poor effort from a once good band.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I had a feeling this was going to be your reaction

Nicky said...

To be honest, I haven't heard the full album yet, but I've already heard a few songs.. And excuse me, but THIS IS going to be not good album, but great album. I like Believe (their previous album) a lot, but Legacy is even better. It's faster, it's heavier, it's just Girlschool. Listen to Don't Mess Around Me, Don't Talk To Me, Legend, I Spy, Spend Spend Spend, Everything's the Same.. Denise's doublekick is back (thank god!), Enid's bass sounds like from Demolition days, Kim's voice haven't changed through the years at all and it's Jackie Chambers, whose guitar parts make this album more modern, yet "Girlschool".
Yep, they have a lot of special guests on Legacy and why? Because this is the 30th anniversary celebration album!
Outside help to sell this thing? Maybe a little, but in fact, they don't need another musicians to make a cool album by itself..listen to Believe or 21st Anniversary: Not That Innocent.

Have a nice day, Mark :)


P.S. Once good band? hahahahaha... 30th Anniversary means, that Girlschool is not only "once good band" but "always good band"...

the real don m said...

Truth is this thing kicks....a couple of more experimental tracks and lotsa guests in the mix just makes for more to sink yer teeth into. If you were ever a fan yer gonna love, and if yer new to the fold yer gonna love. Suppport classic heavy bands, buy the thing....