Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Go-Go's

  • Beauty and the Beat [I.R.S., 1981] B+
  • Vacation [I.R.S., 1982] B-
  • Talk Show [I.R.S., 1984] A-
  • Greatest [I.R.S., 1990] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Beauty and the Beat [I.R.S., 1981]
Unlike so many groups who live and die by the hook, this one's got hooks, and when you pay attention to the lyrics it seems possible that they don't live and die by the hook at all--"Tonite" and "Skidmarks on My Heart," to choose but two unprepossessing examples, work subtle twists on teen fatalism and obsession, respectively. When you don't pay attention to the lyrics, which isn't hard, you begin to think they live and die by the hook after all. And you're probably right. B+

Vacation [I.R.S., 1982]
Bizzers will no doubt rend their overpriced garments when this fails to follow Beauty and the Beat into Platinum City, but all its failure will prove is that you can't build a wall of sound (much less an empire) out of tissue paper. The uniform thinness of the non-Kathy Valentine songs here does clear up the mystery of why virtual non-writer Belinda Carlisle gets to play frontwoman--her voice fits the image. B-

Talk Show [I.R.S., 1984]
Pop is such a plastic concept that to call this a pop comeback just confuses things--with its clean, bold, Martin Rushent sound and confident basic chopswomanship, it shares less with Beauty and the Beat than with, oh, Sports (and less than Bananarama does, too). In other words, it's an AOR move (with top-forty goals assumed). Lyrically, it represents a retreat--no place for sly subcultural anthems among these straightforward love songs (really relationship songs), which while sensible enough are never acute or visionary (or thematically consistent/complementary). And having peeled away several layers of resistance, I find the record thrilling. Its expressive enthusiasm gives me the same good feeling I used to get from their musical godmothers in Fanny--a sense of possibility that might touch women who are turned off by more explicit politics, and that these women are strong enough to put into practice. A-

Greatest [I.R.S., 1990]
The great album they didn't have in them, so skillfully constructed that you can't tell the Talk Show from the Beauty and the Beat--can't tell Belinda Carlisle learned how to sing before she forgot how to live. How she thrives when she's stuck with her sisters' songs! How they thrive when they stick her with their songs! How fine they all sound covering "Cool Jerk"! How much is that doggie in the window? A