Girl bands often come and go, but sometimes, if we’re lucky, they come back. The Pandoras are a prime example of a group that made their mark and are back to keep their place in our post-punk hearts. Although it may seem out of the blue for the rockers to be making their return, it is not. In 2014, Kim Shattuck, Melanie Vammen, Karen Basset and Sheri Kaplan (original Pandora members), joined forces to begin playing as The Pandoras once more. Well, that once more turned into three years, which brought along a new album and a new beginning for the band. (Though, during a recent European tour, Hillary Burton took over for Sheri as drummer as she was unable to tour. Sheri drummed for four songs off the latest record, and Hillary on three, with Hillary acting as their current drummer.)
Their first real album since 1989, Hey! It’s the Pandoras does immense justice to their original sound and evidently pays homage to their late lead singer, Paula Pierce. It consists of five new tracks, all written by Pierce prior to her sudden death in 1991 — and two covers that clearly would have been in her wheelhouse — but would also no doubt be claimed as some of her personal favorite songs. “You Burn Me Up and Down” (originally done by We The People) is the epitome of the band’s legacy. It has a fun ‘80s pop vibe intermingled with heavy punk tones. The gravelly vocals and synth twinkling throughout make for a vivacious song that was more than made for them to cover.
On the latter end of the record, “It Felt Alright” is a purely punk track that feels too manufactured to be reviewed as “good.” Sure, it’s a good song, but the overall production of it seems far-fetched. I am all for revivals, whether it be of bands or Broadway shows, but bringing back the barely coherent screeching and mish-mosh of instruments is not something I wanted to experience in 2018. So many of the songs off this new album are a genius mix of the imperfect punk rock and the too perfect bubblegum pop. The catchy lyrics, rambunctious guitar and drum solos make for a sound that can only be described as “girls gone wild” (in the best way possible). Unfortunately, “It Felt Alright” is just unnecessarily wild.
If you’re looking for that flawless cross between true punk and pop that The Pandoras once seemed to do so effortlessly, look no further than the second track off Hey! It’s the Pandoras. Entitled “Just a Picture,” this already timeless track would fit perfectly on soundtrack for a John Hughes movie. (If that isn’t a compliment, then I am not sure I know what is.) I can only picture (pun intended) a group of girlfriends roller skating to this song and gossiping about whatever happened in the hallways at school that day. I’m not saying that it’s childish, but it is a quintessential harmonious tune with a lot of talent and rhythm behind it, making it the ideal all-female radio hit.
Originally from California, specifically Los Angeles and the cities surrounding, this band made up entirely of strong, talented women took garage rock to a new level of sophistication. Through individual hardships, group issues, and the already difficult process of making it as a band — in Hollywood, nonetheless — The Pandoras still came out on top with numerous rock ‘n’ roll records filled with power and enthusiasm. It’s been 30 years and their music has not lost even an ounce of that all-female luster that provided them the base of their sound.