Well, this was a real find. For years there was a grand total of one Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls video on YouTube which was frustrating for someone like me who adored Ms. Murray and the album she made with that lot. So finding this clip of them performing three songs was like discovering the Holy Grail, the lost city of Atlantis, and those keys you dropped behind the couch years ago.
I saw her live in 1980 with the Invisible Girls and it’s still one of the best gigs I’ve ever been too, and not just because I had a huge crush on Pauline. They played the entire album and when the audience shouted them back for a third encore Pauline said “we’ve run out of songs” so they played them all again.
1977: A fight at every gig and the lead singer always getting covered in fluids of one kind or another. I believe that’s beer in this instance, I don’t think a human being is capable of producing that much spit in one go.
Like every other group of old punk pensioners these days Penetration recently re-formed and have been touring, they’ve even recorded a couple of new songs (“Guilty” and “The Feeling”) which you can hear on their MySpace page. To be honest I don’t think the new songs are that brilliant and I’m usually highly dubious about bands trying the recreate the glory days but I must admit this live video of them doing “Don’t Dictate” is pretty great. Glad to see Pauline is still looking good after all these years too.
My philosophy is, when you haven’t had time to finish writing any new posts put up something else by Pauline Murray. Here she is with Penetration and a fantastic live version of “Vision” that was on the b-side of the “Danger Signs” 12″ single.
I have a stinking cold at the moment which has rendered me temporarily incapable of writing an interesting sentence so I’ll quickly drop this on you. A while ago I wrote about how much I adored Pauline Murray. Well I loved her so much I even bought this single, a country and western duet she recorded with Peter Perrett of The Only Ones. Were they trying to be the post-punk Tammy Wynette and George Jones or something? Strange, but rather sweet.
I might have had a wee little crush on Clare Grogan but I was completely gaga over Pauline Murray. Not just because she was a real treat for the eyes (see above), but was also one of the best singers to come out the punk era with a warm, soaring voice that stood out like a jewel in a field of spitters and snarlers. She never got the recognition that more stridently iconoclastic female singers like Siouxsie Sioux and Poly Styrene did, and being lead singer of a rather ordinary punk band like Penetration probably didn’t help her profile much either. What made me fall at her feet in a fanboy swoon was the solo album she made in 1980 after the group split up.
That album, “Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls” is something of a minor post-punk classic and, despite the fact that it was produced by the great Martin Hannett (with a beautiful Peter Saville sleeve) has somehow been ignored in the current fad for the era, probably because it doesn’t sound what post-punk is “supposed” to sound like. Instead of the gloomy boys miserabalism Hannett usually had to work with, his spacey sonics are used in the service of airy, feminine, and relatively commercial, pop songs. Playing Phil Spector to her Ronnie, Hannett gave Pauline an ornate and expansive wall of sound with a freedom to breathe she never had with Penetration. It’s a shimmering dream of record, like someone throwing a disco in a cathedral.
“Dream Sequence” (mp3) was the first single from the album and has the kind of swirling, celestial atmosphere The Cocteau Twins and a few others would later ride to indie glory. The line “they stared at my naked body” used to make me blush with naughty thoughts – it still does actually, and the record still sounds magnificent too. “Screaming In The Darkness” (mp3) is a propulsive number powered by the mighty drumming of The Buzzcocks’ John Maher. This could almost be a Blondie record except for all the peculiar noises Hannett throws at it which keep it balanced nicely on a tightrope between mainstream and avant garde.
This video is for the second single “Mr. X” which is dark mutant funk with echoes of “She’s Lost Control” (it came out at the same time as Joy Division’s last album) and the brittle, dry-as-a-bone electronic beat that New Order (and a million other synth-poppers) would be mucking about with a year or two later.
The b-side of “Mr. X” was the dreamy, minimalist ballad “Two Shots” (mp3) which is just Pauline, a drum machine and a piano. When the album was re-released on CD with bonus tracks this was left off for some reason, so here it is and it’s lovely.
The album was only a minor success and I think it was ahead of it’s time. It threw off the gloom and doom of post-punk and put on a luminous, dancefloor-friendly face before the new pop dream of the 80s had happened, and a lot of it anticipates what the coming decade was going to sound like. Siouxsie Sioux may have been the girl who landed the leading lady role but Pauline got the interesting and memorable bit part.
As I said, the album was put out on CD a few years ago but unfortunately that’s out of print now. But if you see a copy – in any format – buy it. That’s an order.
(I’m trying a different format for mp3 links. As I’m writing longer posts I thought it might be better to put them in the actual body copy to save you scrolling all the way down to see what songs it is I’m talking about. Good idea, no?)