Girlschool – Screaming Blue Murder Review

220px-Girlschool_sbm (1)In recent years I’ve been more and more into NWOBHM bands. Oh yes of course I loved Iron Maiden since before I needed to shave, but I wasn’t really exploring any of their contemporaries until I started this blog about six or seven years ago. I stuck my head down the Thrash and Prog rabbit holes for so long that I sort of neglected this stuff. The real foundations of Metal. The moments when Rock that was a bit Metallic really ran off and became its own distinct genre.

Bit by bit I started exploring the likes of Diamond Head and Angel Witch and Venom. Motorhead too (if you count them as NWOBHM, I know some people get testy about them counting as their debut album was out too early). Boy was I late to the party on them. In so doing I found one of my now favourite ever bands in the mighty Saxon. I’ve found some disappointing bands like Samson and Witchfynde who aren’t just as satisfying for what I was looking to get out of this music. I’ve found some really severely underrated bands like Tygers Of Pan Tang and Tokyo Blade who’s early records are comparable in quality to some Priest and Maiden material! One of the bands I’m glad I’ve found are the muscular Girlschool.

I caught Girlschool live supporting Saxon about a year ago and that lead to a boxset of early albums and that lead to some happy listening times. I mean sure I’d read about ’em for years, since getting into Motorhead (and there’s the ‘Please Don’t Touch’ collaboration between the two which I had because of Motorhead) but seeing them live was what really pushed them from the ‘maybe’ pile into my Amazon basket.

Screaming Blue Murder is the London band’s third full-length studio album, and for me, my favourite so far. I think I’ve read somewhere that the previous two records are more popular because the photoshoots and music videos got a bit more glamourous around this stage and people accused them of following Def Leppard out of Metal and into the mainstream or whatever (and listening to their next album that definitely was a little closer to the truth there) but all these years later the only thing that matters to me is the music.

For me a track like ‘Wildlife’ with its infectious chanting chorus, jaunty bouncing rhythm and lead guitar quality is just undeniable. The band have a bit of a Hard Rock sound, a bit of a Punk sound and a bit of a Heavy Metal sound. All three elements are well balanced. If you want something anthemic and ready for radio there’s the retro sounding rock n’ roll of ‘It Turns Your Head Around.’ If you want something a bit more Metallic to sink your teeth in to, then there’s ‘Don’t Call It Love’ which could be on any of the first four Dio albums to my ears. Hey, what diversity in those three tracks alone! I think that’s why this album just pips the previous two badass ones as my favourite. Its almost as fierce but the diversity makes it even more interesting.

Ok. I get that some people won’t love it a much as the previous records. Some people prefer Kill ‘Em All to Master Of Puppets too. Diffrent Strokes and all that. Screaming Blue Murder is indeed a bit more sophisticated than the two albums which preceed it, which are more raw and charming, which have a bit more ramshakle Motorhead vibe to ’em. This one tries on a few more hats. Its not always pounding speed. ‘Flesh And Blood’ is the kind of rolling tribal prog thing Queensryche would be exploring the other side of the milenium! The guitar solos are a bit more ‘feel’ than ‘flash.’

…But that’s all just an extra layer to like. Its still got the hard stuff when you like to just bang around the room (‘Hellrazor’ has that in spades. As does the bonus track ‘Don’t Stop’ if you get a special edition or reissue). Nigel Grey’s roomy and open production job also keeps this sounding hard and rocking. There’s punkiness in the distorted bass on ‘You Got Me.’ This isn’t exactly a Bananarama album now is it? Its like Motorhead, Sex Pistols and AC/DC blended together, with a fat reverb and a unique vocal style.

For me, this 1982 gem, their third in as many years by the way, is a very strong record. It stands up well alongside the better releases of their contemporaries like Raven, Grim Reaper and Bitch’s Sin. Its not just at that untouchable layer as Maiden, Saxon or Motorhead but its definitely belonging of a spot in the collections of any fan of those bigger bands (alongside their previous two, which are less diverse but more energetic and raw and no less worthy of your listening time!).

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