The Catholic Girls were born when schoolgirls Gail Petersen and Roxy Andersen put their guitars together to form the first all-female band from New Jersey that would be signed to a major label. With Doreen Holmes on drums, The Catholic Girls released an album on MCA both in the USA and Australia as well as a special Armed Forces Edition. They embarked on two national tours, received widespread commercial airplay and debuted on MTV to the music of their new wave anthem, “Boys Can Cry.”
Interesting fact: the band was scheduled to appear on Saturday Night Live but then were canceled as they were deemed “too controversial” (at that time) simply because they wore parochial school uniforms on stage and rosary beads as necklaces!
In 1999, the original album was revived and released in CD format, and fans from the ’80s were thrilled to have the girls in plaid back, as were many new fans they were making along the way. In 2002, the band released Make Me Believe as their first indie CD, embarked on a Tri-State tour, opened for acts like Dave Davies of the Kinks, Gene Loves Jezebel and performed at The Knitting Factory in Hollywood and The International Pop Overthrow Festival.
The Asbury Park Music Awards nominated them for Top Rock Band of the Year and their video, “Make Me Believe,” reached the charts in Billboard. In 2004, their CD single, “Summer Vacation/Rock’n America (a tribute to Joey Ramone),” was released nationally followed by a full-length CD, Meet The Catholic Girls. Both gained tons of momentum with college and web airplay and glowing reviews.
Then, Little Steven saw them play live one night and instantly converted. “Rock’n America” was now played on a regular basis on his internationally syndicated radio show, The Underground Garage. It was later included on his Coolest Songs In The World, Vol. 7 CD. Bill Kelly, a longtime altar boy, was also broadcasting the single on SiriusXM Radio, and Genya Ravan (SiriusXM Radio) featured CG songs on her shows, Goldie’s Garage and Chicks And Broads.
Their two songs additionally got airplay on hundreds of college, the internet, and commercial radio such as WRAT, WMFO, WNTI, WFMU, WPRB, WTSR, WDIY, Cyberstorm Radio, BlowUpRadio, iHeart Radio, Time Machine (with Michael McCartney) and This Is Rock’n Roll Radio. 2011 brought The Catholic Girls the honor of being included in NJ Rocks!, a unique exhibition at The Morris Museum, celebrating New Jersey’s heritage of rock music including artists from Lesley Gore to Larry Cutrone to Patti Smith to Bruce Springsteen to…The Catholic Girls!
In 2012 the band released THE CATHOLIC GIRLS—EXPOSED with 13 tracks that included something for everyone: rock, pop, garage, blues and a ballad-inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rebecca. The CD was played by all their favorite stations including WFDU, Home Grown Radio, the Genya Ravan, Palmyra Delran, and Richard Manitoba shows on SiriusXM Radio and several stations in the UK and Australia.
KISS ME ONE MORE TIME was released in 2015 and received glowing reviews in The Aquarian’s Shoreworld and other publications. With songs like the title track, “Kiss Me One More Time,” a blues rocker, to the pop-flavored “Where’s The Logic” (a tribute to Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock) and a girl-band anthem, “Breaking All The Rules,” the band once again received widespread airplay.
They performed live at various clubs and festivals in NY, NJ, and PA, including an all-acoustic show for the world-renowned Melanie Safka. That acoustic-only performance by the girls, along with constant requests from fans, was partially responsible for what happened next.
And that next is The Catholic Girls’ brand new disc, Somebody Better Get A Room. Comprised of four brand new studio tracks and the balance made up from a live recording done live in Bordentown on a simple camera, the tracks are said to be filled with the beautiful imperfections of live performance and interpretation. The live songs are from previous albums and come complete with ad-libs and no further post-production magic other than the performance itself.
The band sent me the songs, and I thought I’d relay some highlights of their new record.
The first song up is “Don’t Cry.” Starting right off with heavy rhythm guitar work, Gail Petersen’s clean, clear vocals pierce the air in the fashionable style of Debbie Harry. Doreen Holmes and Steve Berger hammer out a solid backbeat and bass line as the girls harmonize their addictive chorus. Roxy Andersen talks over the middle eight with a Mick Ronson lead that fits the song to a proverbial T. The overall vibe of this song is the ’80s rock sound at its very best and the girls (and guy) have a highly original radio tune on their hands.
Up next is the disc namesake, “Somebody Better Get A Room.” If you remember great bands such as The Bangles or The Go-Go’s, “Somebody Better Get A Room” will get you tapping your feet and out on the dance floor fast. Poppy, well composed and filled with musical and vocal hooks, this is quintessential Catholic Girls at its finest. The chorus is strong and easy to sing along with, as is the beautiful quality of Gail’s vocal attack. The harmonies of Gail and Roxy work like clockwork and the two sound like they’ve been singing together their entire lives. Roxy’s jangling lead break breaks the middle eight section right on time and if you dig guys like Peter Buck you’re going to love her playing on this. This song might be more of an album track but it’s top-notch stuff.
“Without A Country” is next. The band takes it down a notch with this tune. Berger and Petersen start things off with bass and rhythm guitar before the band joins in. Gail’s easy voice winds into the mix with a toned and themed approach as everyone adds their parts. Gail laments about the time-tested subjects of love and the desolation of moving on as the band backs her up in a seamless fashion. Gail adds exotic flourishes of drenched reverb guitar as she sings her entrancing verse. Roxy’s lead break is a warm, tone beautiful example of great guitar showmanship, and once again it works perfectly for the song.
The next track is “Gone.” Gail starts things off a capella before the band crashes down into the mix. Roxy’s riff sounds the start as Berger and Holmes get down to the serious business of locking the song onto the musical tarmac. Rocking rhythm guitars chug over solid bass and drums as Gail sings about the ultimate act of missing someone that’s no longer there. This is a song that reminds me of Dale Bozzio’s Missing Persons for some reason. Maybe it’s the compositional attack of the piece, but it’s a great tune with a phenomenal ending flourish.
I also wanted to mention some of the live acoustic songs on the disc. “Shame On You” is one of the first acoustic tunes up and I love the feel of this one. Acoustic guitars and minimal percussion shake the tune into the mix as the girls tell their tale. The fact that their songs stand up in this type of environment is a testament to their talent. This is an unyielding song that is filled with emotion and a terrific feeling. Their bio discussed the common live performance issues as far as mistakes and errors, but I don’t hear that here. If anything I think the song performance matches everything about The Catholic Girls, which is bona fide talent.
Another song I wanted to mention is “Young Boys.” Once again the band kicks into their groove with authority and confidence. Guitars strum and chug as Gail sings about the virtues of all those young boys. Roxy assists with backing vocals as well. All in all, it’s a fun song filled with shouts, yelps and a hot lead break in the superior style of Chuck Berry.
The Catholic Girls have been doing music their way for over 30 years now and everything they release sounds as fresh as when they first came out. And yes, I was there when they first hit the scene.
If you get a chance, go pick up this fun and refreshing record and see them live when you can. For more information on The Catholic Girls and Somebody Better Get A Room, head over to thecatholicgirls.net.