Melody Maker June 1981

Steve Sutherland goes for GIRLS AT OUR BEST

© Tom Sheehan/Melody Maker

Ask most bands what gives them that all important edge over the current crop of new chart contenders and they’re usually hard pushed to find an answer. They struggle with terms like “timeless, nameless, indefinable magic” probably blabber on for hours.

Ask this particular band and they’re much more precise.

“My body,” says Judy Evans.

She’s only joking, but she’s sure got a point. Long before their fairly recent live debut, they were plastered across the pages of another rag, eager as to manufacture another next-week’s big thing on the strength of a couple of shoddy but snappy independent singles. The words few, flat and carefully chosen.

The shots, however, were stunning. Judy’s pretty, perfect pop-star face was pushed so far forward that the three boys faded into soft focus, relegated to the status of background props, insignificant in comparison. A handy, helpful but humiliating misrepresentation. but that’s the price you pay for calling your band Girls At Our Best.

“The name means nothing,” insists Judy, the singer and surprisingly, the sole female member of the group.

“It’s just the title of an old song of ours and it sounded good. As far as being the only girl’s concerned, I try to play it down as much as possible, but dealing with the sort of people you have to deal with when you’re in a group which is, apart from the fans and people like yourself (cheers!), shittv people still into that whole thing of ‘Oh, there’s a girl. Let’s talk to her, she’ll be the selling point’.”

Girls At Our Best can’t (and don’t) often complain. So far they’ve successfully played by their own rules at their own pace, gigging infrequently, slowly gathering material, and meticulously building a set’s worth of simple solid songs like their new single ‘Go For Gold’.

Press them for their secret, probe them for a telling description of their sound, and the best you get from Judy is, “A pop group. Not a trashy sort of pop group but you know how The Undertones are a pop group but also they aren’t? Well we’re like that except we’re prettier and we look better.”

Judy’s boyfriend Jez (James Alan), the band’s founder guitarist and songwriter delves a little deeper.

“We’re just dead honest basically,” he says. “I think most of the bands who fit into certain categories are, in most cases, just putting themselves in there. It’s not that they are actually IT, they’re just saying ‘Oh, we can’t do that because it isn’t what we should be doing’. whereas we just do what we want to do.

“The band I was in before (the Girls formed from the ashes of such best forgotten post-punk outfits as SOS and The Butterflies) were dead derivative,” he continues in a homely Hovis voice that betrays his and the band’s Leeds home base. “We were always aware of what other bands were doing whereas now we’re just being ourselves.

“We have got something to say though,” Jez quickly steps in. “Or else we’d just sing ‘da de da de da’ instead of lyrics. “I mean, ‘Go For Gold’ is about the state the music scene today and our last single ‘Politics’ was about the American elections. But they aren’t saying ‘you should do this’ or ‘you should do that’, it’s just healthy cynicism as opposed to destructive cynicism.”

“A lot of have asked: ‘What are you about?’” continues Judy. “They ask ‘why do we like you’, ‘why do you sell records’ and we say we dunno, we just do something that comes naturally to us and there’s nothing else to say. I think people have gotten used to being told ‘You’re gonna like this because… You like Toyah because… You like Hazel O’Connor because… You like Spandau Ballet because…’ and yet we come along and they just like us.”

“That’s because people are so used to bands bullshitting them all the time,” says Jez.

And we’re not doing that.

“The way we go about doing a song is getting a good tune and a good beat – a great pop song as opposed to ‘look we’re got this big theory, let’s use the music to put this across’. I’ve got this really good quote, I can’t remember where it’s from but… ‘Obscurity is the refuge of incompetence’ – that sums up all those groups.

Sitting around a tape recorder, Girls At Our Best are as committed, confident, uncompromising and cheerfully self-critical as they are effervescently light-hearted on stage.

In many ways, the pop they play is close to the likes of Orange Juice. They may be ‘too rough and ready’ for the radio, their “aggressive stance towards pop” (Judy’s words) the only thing that stands between them and ambitions which are to “compete with what we think are the really big groups” (Terry); “to be in the charts by Christmas, or, at least, on Top Of The Pops” (Jez); “To be famous” (Judy).

As long their label, the newly-formed Happy Birthday Records, can pitch in there with the big boys and promote The Girls full-tilt, their present cult following — which., they claim, sweeps right across the contemporary trendies from flamboyant New Romantics to the odd hardcore headbanger — will surely spread into a nationwide love affair of epidemic proportions.

Interview in the Melody Maker by Steve Sutherland.

Obscurity is usually the refuge of incompetence’ – Robert A. Heinlein