Expanded 2020 reissue of 1982 pop classic
Originally released in 1982 amid the MTV/New Wave boom, this San Francisco bandâ€™s only full-length album shared some of the boomâ€™s pop sensibilities, but with a craft that was more musically rich than its video-enhanced counterparts. Hayesâ€™ roots in jazz might have informed some of the chords and harmonies, but her musical training never hindered the albumâ€™s pop joy, finding expression in a depth of songwriting that was often missing from the mainstream. The bandâ€™s indie label (Slash) and its corporate distributor (Warner Brothers) failed to turn any of the albumâ€™s tracks into hit singles (though â€œGirls Like Meâ€ and â€œShellyâ€™s Boyfriendâ€ both appeared on the soundtrack of Valley Girl), and Slash dropped the band after this album. A follow-up EP, Brave New Girl, was self-released in 1984, and marked the end of a surprisingly short run for a group whose debut was so brimming with life, and whose songwriter proved to have a great deal more to say (notably penning â€œHave A Heartâ€ and â€œLove Letterâ€ for Bonnie Raittâ€™s Nick of Time).
The original album was reissued in 2007 by Wounded Bird, but is augmented here by the follow-up EP, the pre-LP single version of â€œShellyâ€™s Boyfriendâ€ (and its flip â€œRochambeau,â€ released as The Punts), and a trio of demos that failed to make the album. The debut opens with the exuberant one-two punch of â€œGirls Like Meâ€ and the cautionary sibling shout-out â€œShellyâ€™s Boyfriend.â€ Hayesâ€™ slow piano intro doesnâ€™t tip off the punchy rhythm of â€œSeparating,â€ and her organ and coy vocal give â€œDum Funâ€ a hint of new wave before her solo and Paul Davisâ€™ scorching guitar give the throwaway-titled song some soulful musical heft. The original â€œCoverageâ€ would find subsequent cover on David Crosbyâ€™s 1993 release Thousand Roads, giving Hayesâ€™ songwriting the exposure its lyrics seemed to beg for.
The follow-up EP is highlighted by the wondrous impressions of â€œAfter Hoursâ€ and the closing â€œNight Baseball,â€ the latter of which Hayes characterizes as a â€œmulti-meter modal extravaganza about my love affair with San Francisco.â€ The pre-LP Punts single is a treat whose lack of distribution made it a rarity. The earlier version ofÂ â€œShellyâ€™s Boyfriendâ€ is taken at a slower tempo that is less anxious with its advice than the album take. The B-side pairs a lovely vocal with an unusual rhythm and a dash of Hayesâ€™ jazz background in the instrumental passage. The collectionâ€™s demos were recorded by the pre-Wild Combo Punts (including producer Steve Savage on drums), and though a bit more punk rock in attitude than what ended up on the album, itâ€™s not hard to imagine how these songs might have fit. Altogether, this is a terrific upgrade to Wounded Birdâ€™s straight-up album reissue, and the place to start if you missed the album in its previous incarnations. [Â©2020 Hyperbolium]