Like many who know this next Shoreworld band, I got my first listen through The Aquarian’s own Chris Barry. It’s hard to fathom that it’s been some 10 years since Chris disappeared into the world beyond, but his rock and roll legacy lives on and his writing includes some of New Jersey’s most enduring music. The Catholic Girls are a prime example of the vital gems that Chris brought to life in these pages.
Ignited by Gail Petersen and Roxy Andersen, The Catholic Girls were the first all-female band in New Jersey to be signed to a major label deal. With the addition of Doreen Holmes on drums, The Catholic Gils released their explosive debut album on MCA Records both in the USA and Australia. The Catholic Girls practiced what they preached. Donned in plaid skirts, rosary beads, and Catholicism-laced props, the girls pumped out jagged, raw pop punk in the vein of Suzie Quattro and Joan Jett long before it became an everyday sound.
Their first single, “God Made Me For You,” allegedly focused on God as a woman and angered the Archdiocese of Rhode Island to the point of having them banned from playing the state.
The Catholic Girls made headway on the media outlets of the day. MTV and VH1 played host to the band, as did alternative radio. But in a world of commercial guarantees, The Catholic Girls were a misunderstood group whose compositional talent and image scared typical industry poseurs and rack jobbers back into the stone ages.
Their website says, “While MTV and VH1 now find all this stuff ‘fresh and new,’ or ‘full of insightful dark lyricism and meaning,’ in the ‘80s, these same channels were not forward-thinking enough to recognize the real thing. Four girls in black school uniforms couldn’t possibly be doing things destined to be the future of music.”
But The Catholic Girls carried on, releasing music, reuniting fans and staying involved with many aspects of the industry where others might have given up and dispersed. They’ve spent their time making every moment count through releases such as Meet The Catholic Girls and Exposed, touring the country and racking up hordes of new fans and raving reviews.
Their latest record is Kiss Me One More Time, and it’s a heartwarming look at the growth and seasoning of a unit that has come far while keeping the spirit of what they used to explode onto the scene so many years ago.
“Shame On You” kicks off with a delightful splash of 10,000 Maniacs meets The Bangles. Peterson’s voice is still as powerful and toned as it was in the ’80s, and she soars effortlessly as the band chugs and pumps quirky, clean rhythms through the spine of this poppy tune. Choruses are simple and strong relying on well-executed melodies to get the point across. The lead in the middle-eight (courtesy of Roxy Andersen) is vibrant and wild, harkening one back to stages of New York and New Brunswick in the days where music was the most important thing in the world.
“Where’s The Logic” is the band’s dedicated nod to the late, great Leonard Nimoy and his portrayal as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock. Hey, you know I like that. Of course, I’m more of a Captain Kirk guy but Spock was OK in my book too. Mid-tempo swing splashes with glass-smooth Stratocasters, bass, and drums. The Go-Go’s would have nothing on The Catholic Girls and their melodic tapestries weave effortlessly through single note runs and poppy chords. Light and breezy, The Catholic Girls know just what to do.
“Breaking All The Rules” is up next and throws out snarling, vicious growls of four on the floor pop punk goodness. The guitar lines are simple and driving as Petersen launches into her trippy, crooning ode to breaking free of the humdrum limitations of everyday life. It’s like listening to a glorious union of Dramarama and The Plimsouls as drummer Doreen Holmes thunders doubled-up tom toms through the middle along with bassist (and only male Catholic Girl) Steve Berger.
Other standouts are disc title-track “Kiss Me One More Time.” Delivered with a bluesy, “Black Velvet” sultry saunter, “Kiss Me One More Time” is definitive Catholic Girl material. Guitars rip with gnarly, tube-blazing brilliance as bass and drums pump and pulse rock steady direction for Petersen to wail. Once again, Roxy’s guitar work is some down-home junkyard roar and puts “Kiss Me One More Time” at the top of the make-out list.
“Down At The Shore” is the Catholic Girls salute to all things dirty Jersey. They’ve even gone as far as putting a plea into Governor Christie on their press release when they say, “Attention Chris Christie: ‘Down at The Shore’ should be THE New Jersey theme song.” And so it should be. With its surf-tinged, “everything’s gonna be all right” vibe, it has my vote as the poster child for the beach and beyond.
The Catholic Girls also bring back a new ballad version of “God Made You.” The song, revisited from their MCA debut, was banned by the Archdiocese of Rhode Island back in the 1980s, and it offers a poignant and beautifully somber view of the tribulations of oppression and the everlasting loss of immortality and paradise. I wonder what the Archdiocese would have to say about this today. Guitars pick slowly, spinning and turning glistening layers of overtone and harmony as Petersen gives the vocal performance of her life.
The CD ends with the unforgettable, summertime undertow of “Boys Can Cry.” Live and acoustic in nature, the band delivers an extremely original performance complete with harmonies, handclaps and guitar case percussion. Think the magic of the late, great Del Shannon along with that sweet little peach Jane Wieldlin on top and that’s “Boys Can Cry.”
Kiss Me One More Time has a total of 11 finely crafted songs ranging from tales of rejuvenated glory to heartbreak, love and rock and roll rebellion, and it’s a look at a band that proves that when you love what you do, and you’re honest with your expression, the result always becomes a winning scenario.
The Catholic Girls will be touring in the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania area to support this new CD and additionally, a special acoustic show as an opening band for Melanie of “Candles In The Wind” fame.
They will also be appearing on many radio stations such as WFMU, WTSR, WMFO, WFDU, Home Grown Radio, Cyberstorm, IndieScene Radio and on Little Steven’s Underground Garage with Genya Ravan with interviews, playing cuts from the CD, and telling stories about the songs themselves and what it is (and was) like to be a working all-female rock band.
For more information on The Catholic Girls and their amazing musical triumph, please go to thecatholicgirls.net.