BOXSET REVIEW: Make More Noise – Women In Independent Music UK 1977-1987 (Cherry Red Records)
The punk explosion of 1976 wasn’t just the signal for bored boys to pick up guitars – it also gave women in music a real voice for the first time.
It was time for them to come to the front of the stage, show off their independent spirit and enjoy their time in the spotlight.
This 4CD set comprises 90 tracks from the decade following the seismic shift that was punk, exploring the work of some of the best-known female artists, and many more from the fringes.
It spans many genres, from the pioneering punk of Penetration to Girlschool, who were flying the flag for females in the the new wave of British heavy metal, and on into electronica, dub, ska and lo-fi pop, with the set presented in a sturdy hardback book format.
Fittingly, things kicks off with Oh Bondage! Up Yours, the shrill, sax-driven X-Ray Spex punk classic which launched Poly Styrene into the public’s consciousness, reminding us that little girls weren’t here to be seen and not heard, after all.
There are household names aplenty – Alison Moyet (during her Yazoo days), Toyah, Kirsty MacColl, Nico, Tracey Thorn, Chrissie Hynde, Neneh Cherry (as part of Rip, Rig + Panic), Pauline Murray, Sinead O’Connor, Bananarama and Tracey Ullman.
There are underground figureheads too – performance artist Cosey Fanni Tutti, journalist and post-punk pioneer Vivien Goldman, anarcho-punks Poison Girls – and lots more unsung pioneers.
The glaring omission, of course, is Siouxsie And The Banshees, who seldom give permission for their music to be included on these compilations.
But there’s plenty to enjoy, with disc one’s highlights including the jerky new wave of Lene Lovich‘s Lucky Number, the dub reggae of The Slits‘ Typical Girls, the angular post-punk of The Passions‘ Body And Soul to the slick pop of The Pretenders‘ Kid.
Disc two includes all-girl ska group The Bodysnatchers, who announce their arrival with Ruder Than You, and Black And Blue by The Selecter, whose vocalist Pauline Black remains an icon for empowered women today.
There’s also the frankly unsettling experimental dub of Private Armies by Vivien Goldman, Self Defence by Ova (“one day I’m going to kill a man in self-defence”), and Honey Bane‘s highly sexualised Guilty Dub, recorded, troublingly, when she was just 16.
Disc three kicks off with the a capella It’s A Fine Day by Jane, which would go on to be an international hit for Opus III when set to a house beat almost a decade later.
The Raincoats and Cocteau Twins take us into indie-pop territory before we’re reminded that punk wasn’t dead after all by The Expelled, The A-Heads, Lost Cherrees and Vice Squad (the oft-ignored post-Beki Bondage version),
By disc four the C86 indie-pop sound is firmly established, and highlights include The Primitives, Voice Of The Beehive, Darling Buds, and the Shop Assistants, as well as Sinead O’ Connor‘s magnificent Mandinka.
There are lots of names you’ll never have heard of which will set you searching for other songs on Youtube, or however you discover bands you’ve missed: artists like Androids Of Mu, The Delmonas and The Fabulous Dirt Sisters.
My vote for the standout track of the entire set goes to The Boiler, a shocking song about date-rape which Rhoda Dakar of The Bodysnatchers somehow took into the Top 40 with the Special AKA. I hadn’t heard it in years, and it remains one of the most powerful pieces of music that’s ever been released, with a message that is sadly still all too relevant. 8/10