Boston's Alternative Source!

[Live & On Record]


It’s been a little more than 15 years since the Go-Go’s called it quits amid a flurry of the sort of petty jealousies, substance-abuse problems, and hurt feelings the industry usually refers to as " creative differences. " And if it doesn’t seem quite that long since the Go-Go’s last had the new-wave beat, well, that’s because it hasn’t been. Indeed, the band found time to regroup twice in the ’90s: first to record a cover of the Capitols’ oldie " Cool Jerk " for Go-Go’s Greatest (IRS) and for the short tour that followed its 1990 release; then to support the release of the two-disc career retrospective Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s (IRS) in 1994. But having squeezed as much as they had any right to expect in the way of vault-based compilations out of what boiled down to a three-album career (’81’s Beauty and the Beat, ’82’s Vacation, and ’84’s Talk Show), the band, who came to the FleetBoston Pavilion last Thursday, opted to make reunion 2001 a more involved project than either ’90 or ’94.

The big difference this time around is that the Go-Go’s are touring behind a full-length studio album featuring 13 newly written songs. The disc, God Bless the Go-Go’s, came out in early May on Beyond, a label that seems to be making a specialty out of reviving the careers of ’80s survivors — it had quite a bit of success with the Blondie comeback disc, No Exit, in ’98. Like Blondie, the Go-Go’s set up their comeback disc by participating in a VH1 Behind the Music special that chronicled the band’s rise and fall and aired at least a dozen times in the months leading up to the release of God Bless the Go-Go’s. And like No Exit, God Bless is a slightly more mature-sounding version of the music the band are known and loved for, though the Go-Go’s couldn’t help updating their summery So-Cal sound with a little punk-pop overdrive (Green Day’s Billie Joe even guests on guitar for the disc’s first single, " Unforgiven).

Unfortunately, God Bless hasn’t enjoyed the early success that No Exit did. The band acknowledged this at the Pavilion when they introduced " Unforgiven " as their new " hit " single and then quipped, " You just may not have heard it yet! " But all you had to do was look at all the empty seats at the back of the venue to realize that the Go-Go’s aren’t quite all the way back yet. Part of the problem may be that whereas Blondie’s New York brand of new wave always had a certain degree of adult sophistication, the Go-Go’s are from LA, the land of perpetual youth, and they’re trapped somewhere between the giddy girls’-club vibe of their classic material and the reality that they’re no longer in their 20s. So though it was good to see singer Belinda Carlisle wearing an adult knee-length black skirt with a matching turtleneck shirt, elfin rhythm-guitarist Jane Weidlin looked a little silly in her faux priest-collar shirt and short-short skirt.

It was also hard not to notice that after all these years drummer Gina Schock still has a nasty habit of slowing down on the quiet parts (like the " Hush my darling " bridge in " Our Lips Are Sealed " ) and speeding back up on the louder parts (which made the dynamics-rich " This Town " almost unbearable). As a lead singer backed by a band, Blondie were free to beef up the backing band to their hearts’ content. The Go-Go’s, on the other hand, built their image on being a band of women, and even the addition of extra side players would have detracted from that. It was still great to hear them play most of the old hits. And most of the new ones sounded pretty good too. But it seemed clear that there was a time and a place for the Go-Go’s . . . 15 or 20 years ago.



Issue Date: July 26 - August 2, 2001