Releasing this debut record in 1981, ‘Beauty and the Beat’, the Go-Go’s would solidify their place as one of the best pure pop groups in popular music. Isn’t there an ancient proverb written somewhere in the annals of popular music that says straightforward pop music that is performed at this level of competency and maintains this level of charm is an undeniable format? The Go-Go’s prove this on this record just as well as a band like Culture Club would go on to prove a couple of years later. No matter how cynical of a listener one can be, the most self-aware of us will know where it becomes appropriate to draw a line in the sand when it comes to accepting these charming conditions.
The opening track on this record is one of the band’s all-time smashes, “Our Lips Are Sealed”, which instantly set into motion the possibilities that were in place for the photogenic female pop star in the ’80s, for better (and mostly for worse). Conventional wisdom would have us believe that Madonna was the biggest female pop star of the ’80s, but let’s be honest here, she was never capable of even tying Belinda Carlisle’s shoelaces. Never was she able to revel in the sort of self-assured attractiveness, move with such an effortless, elegant strut, or portray the sense of fun and enjoyment that Carlisle managed to on this record. Songs like “Tonite” and “This Town” rocked with a sense of awe and wonder that, up to this point in time, had generally been reserved for male artists. These two tracks, in particular, also showcased a level of toughness thought to be forbidden among female groups of the time. This serves as a testimony to just how influential this group was. One other thing that is true of this record, albeit in a subtle form, is the influence of punk rock, an influence that, of course, would be one of the cornerstone foundations of the early new wave movement. The icy early new wave sound was something that the Go-Go’s were very much a part of, which they prove on the track “Automatic”, simultaneously showing the versatility that the band were capable of exercising at this time.
This is an incredible record, folks. You’d be doing yourself a major disservice by missing out on this one. It’s without a doubt one of the absolute best records of the early-’80s. The songwriting on the record, mostly done by lead guitarist, Charlotte Caffey and rhythm guitarist, Jane Wiedlin, is remarkably catchy and potent. The Go-Go’s, as a unit, seemed to blend together with an almost unbelievable ease. At their absolute best, which this record certainly finds them, they’re nothing short of angelic with their presentation and in their impeccable execution. Make no mistake about it, though, the bulk of the record’s charm and charisma comes from Carlisle, the band’s undisputed leader. Carlisle was a trailblazer, a trend-setter, a blaze of fire that was capable of most anything at this point in time. She was an untempered, youthful spirit that was more than ready to face the challenges that the music industry has long given. It’s this fearlessness, or at least her portrayal of fearlessness, that projected this record into the stratosphere of the decade’s best. A piece of full disclosure, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, yours truly has always been a bit mad about her, no pun intended.