Review by Ryan Leach
It’s hard to believe that the Bangles were part of the paisley underground scene. But before “Walk Like An Egyptian” and the atrocious ballad “Eternal Flame”, the Bangles had some street credibility and nerve. Bangles(1982)—the group’s eponymous, five-song debut—is a great EP.
Opener “The Real World” was the single culled fromthe record. Susanna Hoffs takes lead vocal. And while nowhere near as visceral as paisley peer Paula Pierce in the garage-punk days of The Pandoras, Hoffs is convincing. The lyrics to “The Real World” are heavily indebted to Dylan’s “My Back Pages” and Gene Clark’s work with the Byrds; Vicki Peterson’s guitar solo in the song wouldn’t sound the same had Roger McGuinn not paved the way fifteen years earlier. The rest of the A side really belongs to Annette Zilinskas; her bass playing on “I’m In Line” and “Want You” is top notch. The B side of the EP contains another Byrds-inspired track (“Mary Street”) and a cover of the La De Das’ “How Is the Air Up There?”. (The latter was an incredible selection, seeing as New Zealand’s the La De Das were about as obscure as one could get in ’82.)
Part of the charm of Bangles is the naiveté of the record. At this stage the Bangles were so obviously in love with anything associated with the mid ‘60s LA folk-rock and garage scenes. Their originals border on clever rewrites of their influences’ greatest tracks. But that quality tends to be a hallmark of a lot of great records—just ask Mark Sultan. Interestingly, the EP catches the Bangles at a brief point where they could claim associations with artists as diverse and interesting as I.R.S. label mates Wall of Voodoo and fellow paisleys, The Last (reportedly Hoffs was a huge fan of the Nolte brothers). Sadly, Hoffs and the Peterson sisters switched to Prince covers and sterile-sounding recordings just a couple of years later. Zilinskas, who from a critical standpoint but certainly not a financial one, left the Bangles at just the right time, joining Blood on the Saddle in ‘82.