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Girlschool: Nightmare At Maple Cross (reissue)

It's hard to escape the feeling that by their 1986 album, Nightmare At Maple Cross, British rabble rousers Girlschool were lost. Seen as true pioneers of the NWOBHM sound, the all girl outfit had through two excellent albums, Demolition and Hit And Run, announced themselves in full on punk-metal style and impressed the likes of Motorhead's Lemmy in the process. Two follow up releases provided ever so slightly diminishing returns, before the US only (although recently reissued on CD for the first time in the UK by Cherry Red/HNE) Running Wild expanded the band's line-up to five through the introduction of singer Jackie Bodimead and attempted to 'refine and redefine' the band's appeal. Personally I find it to be a massively underrated album, but the critics strongly disagreed and unable to get it released in their home country, Girlschool again went back to the drawing board.

Bodimead was, not too surprisingly, ditched, guitarist Kim McAuliffe resuming the vocal duties she'd so ably handled before. However that wasn't the only way the band looked to their past on Nightmare At Maple Cross (which oddly, at first glance seems to have a Jawa from Star Wars staring back at you from the cover…?) producer Vic Maille brought back into the fold and a heavier sound sought out once more. However the end results feel like a real compromise, a strange glam rock thump brought into play. Throughout, the snare is an annoying clipped intrusion as the bass drum unhelpfully bumps along. An uninspired cover of Mud's "Tiger Feet" certainly doesn't help (the original US version also featured a duet with Gary Glitter on "I'm The Leader Of The Gang (I Am)", but given how all that worked out it's no surprise that it's no longer included), the feeling that Girlschool were desperately hunting through other people's old boxes of tricks for inspiration a real disappointment. While misplaced humour, spoken word sections and quirky lyrics make it hard to take much of what's going on as seriously as you'd like.

To be fair, if you can ignore the constant thump-schmak-thump-schmak of drums, Cris Bonacci's guitar work is top notch and the likes of "Never Too Late", "All Day, All Night" and ""Let's Break Up" are riff fuelled bursts that simply lose their way through Maille's awful production (Andy Pearce's usually excellent remastering skills seem to have met their match here…). Hence in what could almost be described as a mess of an album, it's harder to cherry pick the good moments than it is lament at what happened to the potent force that delivered Demolition and Hit And Run. Girlschool were better than this – and by some distance – but it's hard to believe it on this evidence.

Credit to Malcolm Dome's in depth liner notes for not (quite) shying away from the torrid times Girlschool were going through when this album was recorded. However with no bonus tracks on an album that barely squeaks past 30 minutes, there's not too much to get excited about on a collection that didn't fare well on its release and unfortunately doesn't find time improving it.


Track Listing
1. ALL DAY ALL NIGHT
2. PLAY WITH FIRE
3. DANGER SIGN
4. NEVER TOO LATE
5. TIGER FEET
6. BACK FOR MORE
7. LET'S GO CRAZY
8. YOU'VE GOT ME (UNDER YOUR SPELL)
9. LET'S BREAK OUT
10. TURN IT UP

Added: August 7th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Nightmare At Maple Cross at Cherry Red
Hits: 535
Language: english

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