Tuesday 16 January 2018

why it's the year of the girl group

Last week I read with delight of The Bangles' reunion tour. Although hits such as Manic Monday and Walk Like An Egyptian are timeless, there's never been a better time for an all-girl guitar group to make a comeback. If last year was the year of the female artist in music, this year it's all about the girl group. And I'm not talking about Girls Aloud.

The Like are readying their long- awaited second album, LA's Warpaint have just been signed up by Rough Trade and will play Dublin in October, and The Dum Dum Girls are blazing a trail through the festival circuit.

I'm a long-time fan of girl groups. The Shangri-Las, The Ronettes, The Paris Sisters and, later, Le Tigre and Sleater-Kinney.

I was even in a girl group at one point.

So what's so special about girl groups? There is something irresistible about a multiple girl vocal.

It always works whether it's the dual vocal of Shampoo to the triple vocal of Bananarama to the five voices of Girls Aloud. A wall of female voices is instantly recognisable and enjoyable.

The last time girl groups were so popular and visible was the 1960s. So why are they back now?

Amy Winehouse certainly helped by reintroducing a taste for beehives and tambourines with her second album Back To Black, a homage to the Shangri-Las, but perhaps after girl groups such as The Spice Girls and Girls Aloud we're finally ready for girls with a harder edge. While Girls Aloud can dance, The Dum Dum Girls bring a spike-heeled stomp and snarl to proceedings that gives a different account of what it's like to be a girl in a band.

There's something so mysterious and glamorous about girl bands. It's part of their allure.

You find yourself wondering what it's like to be part of that inner circle. What do they talk about on tour? Do they share lipstick? Boyfriends? Do they fight over clothes?

Phil Spector knew the lure of the girl group and made his name with bands such as The Paris Sisters and The Ronettes, while producer Shadow Morton had a hit with the moodier Shangri-Las.

The Supremes were one of the most successful girl groups of all time, while by the '70s girl groups had virtually disappeared.

The Go-Gos were the bridging gap between the '60s girl groups and '80s bands such as The Bangles, while the 90s were dominated by R'n'B girl groups such as Destiny's Child and TLC, giving way to pop groups such as The Spice Girls and Girls Aloud.

With the return of The Bangles and the emergence of bands like The Dum Dum Girls, I'm hopeful that the phrase 'girl group' will go back to meaning something more than Baby, Scary, Ginger, Posh and Sporty.

The Bangles play Vicar Street, Dublin, October 4, tickets €35 on sale now.

Irish Independent

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