Taking their name from the B-side to ‘Mull of Kintyre’ by Paul McCartney and Wings are Girlschool. The all-female rockers emerged as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) scene in the late ’70s/early ’80s, with a little help from Motörhead‘s Lemmy.
The sound of their fifth album “Running Wild” picks up where the previous one “Play Dirty” left off, namely melodic rock with a heavy touch of glam. This is the album where they tried, and ultimately failed, to break America. Kelly Johnson, vocalist and guitarist, quit being replaced by Cris Bonacci on axe duties and Jackie Bodimead on keyboards and vocals (both from She), making them a five-piece.
Alas, adding layers of sheen loses what attracted you to Girlschool in the first place. Their aggressive, punk-imbued metal was dulled down with melody and huge choruses ruling the roost. They had gone from gritty to glam in their chase for chart success, not too dissimilar a path from their NWOBHM contemporaries Saxon. Their more commercial outlook is apparent from the opening chimes of ‘Let Me Go’ and especially so in the title track, which is coupled with a terrifyingly ’80s music video in which the band morph from cartoon black cats for some unknown reason.
Fear not, though, as it’s not all ballads and dry ice as ‘Something For Nothing’ manages to marry their rawer sound with melody. So to does the headbanging ‘Are You Ready’, despite the hackneyed lyrics (guess what word comes next? It rhymes with shock!), and ‘Nowhere to Run’ with it’s cracking solo by newcomer Bonacci. These rockier numbers possess a marked likeness to Def Leppard in their prime, particularly ‘I Want You Back’ with its ‘Photograph’-esque riff.
As is their trademark, this record contains a cover. Their previous four studio offerings included versions of ZZ Top‘s ‘Tush’ and T.Rex‘s ’20th Century Boy’ amongst others; this time it’s Kiss song ‘Do You Love Me’ from “Destroyer”, and it suffers from the same insipidity as the original.
This commercial effort from Girlschool is not without its charms – the boisterous, chant-a-long choruses of ‘Are You Ready’ and ‘Something for Nothing’ especially – but it lacks distinction and sparkle. They traded in their raw and aggressive Ramones-meets-strong>Motörhead brand of metal for riffaholic, America-tinged stadium rock a la Heart or Def Leppard, becoming undistinctive and lost in the mire as a result.