Emerging out of the same LA punk scene that brought you the hardcore Runaways and the-once-hardcore-but-eventually-softer-focus Go-Gos, the Bangles started out the early 80s as dues-paying members of the Paisley Underground, churning out 60s-inspired garage rock with machine-gun drums and pointed verse. That is, until Prince and the Corporate Beast strangled it out of them.
Getting prettier and less gritty as they went on, The Bangles’ Different Light LP was one of the hottest selling records at the end of the Reagan years—spoon-feeding a tender-eared public non-Bangles-penned monstrosities such as "Walk Like an Egyptian" and "Manic Monday." Perhaps it was the record company or the new fans, but whatever entity imported songs and pegged babydoll-voiced Susanna Hoffs as the leader of the band did a grave disservice to the rest of the girls. Vicki and Debbi Peterson and Michael Steele (formerly of the Runaways) were equally superior songwriters and sported deeper, richer vocals that connected more strongly to their punkish-pop roots. The unreleased cuts from Different Light such as "Return Post," "Angels Don’t Fall in Love," Michael Steele’s superb "Following" and "Not Like You" reflect a much more diverse (and better) Bangles than pop radio ever heard. (Also check out almost everything on their first full LP, All Over the Place).
The Bangles released Doll Revolution in 2003 after their millennial reunification, but instead of time tunneling back to what once almost truly made them great, the result was less trashed-out Hole and more glammed-up Kelly Clarkson. Maybe it’s the times. The End Times. Nevertheless, the Bangles’ appeal is as strong as any other retro-band, and with new bassist Abby Travis (correction: the Insurmountable Diva Goddess, Abby Travis), maybe the gals will pull out some of the thick old chops and ditch the prissy miss stuff.
Wear black. Yell a lot. Make it so. (Stacy Davies)
The Bangles at Morongo Casino, Sun., 7 p.m. $35-$50.