Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Music Box: Catholic Girls

My scanner died last week so I was in Best Buy looking for a replacement when I popped by the ever-shrinking CD department to see what they had. Back in the day, Best Buy was an oddly fun place to shop for music as you never knew what bizarre import would turn up mixed in with the usual stuff. As I walked down the first aisle I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of the eponymous debut album by the Catholic Girls, smack dab in the front of the section -- with its own name card! You'd think that if this so-called '80s novelty band's album was issued on CD, everything must be. (Heck, even '80s gender-bender Marilyn's "Despite Straight Lines" finally made it to the late 20th century last month!) But with albums by the likes of Buckingham Nicks, Tom Tom Club, Kirsty MacColl and the Waitresses still not available on disc, I know this is not the case, making the Catholic Girls reissue all the more baffling. Originally released in 1982 at the height of the Go-Go's mania, my brother Bill -- away at the University of Arizona -- immediately picked up a copy. Back then we didn't even need to hear a song first -- an all-girl band was a instant must-have.

Although I was eager to love the Catholic Girls (the Bangles EP had recently swept us away and we were ready for the next big thing), I can vividly remember being totally creeped out by the religious overtones of it all (bear in mind that I was raised without ever setting foot in a church and the sight of a crucifix, rosary beads or a prayer card in a friend's house made me really uncomfortable as a kid) -- from the way-before-Britney school uniforms to religious-sounding songs titles and even the pre-Madonna font on the logo -- and even being unsure of singer Gail Petersen's gender. (Sorry, Gail. I was spoiled with Belinda Carlisle and Susanna Hoffs. But I still think that chick on the back album photo might be a man.) Gail's odd vibrato and vocal delivery also led me to lose faith. "C'est Impossible" was a bright spot and remains a catchphrase/all-purpose non sequitur in my best friend Greg's and my routine to this day, and "Boys Can Cry" got a little play on MTV. But ultimately the band failed to connect with an audience -- my entire girl-obsessed gang included -- despite high-profile touring gigs supporting Tom Petty and the Kinks.

Jump ahead 25 years or so and having just listened to the album again for the first time in ages  I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm stunned by how enjoyable it is. (Maybe I'm not so squeamish anymore?) The songs are smart and instantly catchy (from the pop perfect of the plaintive "I Called Your Up" and"Where Did I Go Wrong" to the melancholy "Park Theater" and the eight-minute infidelity anthem "God Made You for Me") and Gail's voice doesn't really sound that odd to me at all -- it's actually kind of perfect for the material. I'd probably be filled with regret that the C Girls never got their due right now except I've also just discovered that this reissue came out in 1999 and remains in print -- and on iTunes -- indicating that I'm not the only one to have a change of heart. What's more the band still performs regularly around the East Coast and has even issued a couple more albums. (This reissue has eight bonus tracks recorded in more recent times and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that they're easily as good as the old ones -- "He Was Bad" RULES! -- and probably better if not for lacking the nostalgic element.) I'm not sure I'll be schlepping out to Bordentown, N.J., for the girls' upcoming gig at The Record Collector, but I must confess that there are now 10 Catholic Girls songs on my iPod ...

Go to the band's official Web site HERE or MySpace page HERE.

"Boys Can Cry"

"C'est Impossible"

View all Music Box posts HERE.

coming soon to ipod near you
Never, Never Lyrics
If It Was Me Lyrics
Untouched Lyrics
Addicted Lyrics
Saving Abel
Hallelujah Lyrics
Jeff Buckley
Skyway Avenue Lyrics
We the Kings
Forever And Always Lyrics
Taylor Swift
Don't Turn Back Lyrics
Colby O'Donis
Mona Lisa Lyrics
All American Rejects
Love Bug Lyrics
Jonas Brothers
Get your own here.


Anonymous said...

We loved reading about your original and current reactions to our first album. Sorry you thought Gail was a man! This is pretty scary since Gail is onlly 5'4" and a little over 100 pounds! When we were on tour people were surprised at how petite she was and still is! ; )
If you show up at our Record Collector Show in Bordentown this Saturday - make sure you introduce yourself! Glad you appreciate the songs more now that you've revisited them!
The CGs

Kareen said...

Actually, the uniquness of this band (especially the alto vocal style) back in the 80s was one of the main reasons I enjoyed them! And, surprisingly enough, their newer stuff is just as good or better. Esppecially AIRPLAY, which I've recently heard on WFMU and may be their best track ever!