It was high time that we got some cheesy 80’s sounds out of my cheesiest theme to date. The Bangles, for those of you who may not know, are an American all girl pop-rock band formed in 1981. The band enjoyed a career peak of about 5 years in the mid-late 80’s where they gifted us with a lot of really fun music before breaking up in 1989. They got back together in 1998, which is nice and all, but doesn’t really matter for this blog which will focus on their 1986 album from which 5 singles charted, Different Light.
Right off the bat, here, we have to talk about the songs from this album that really steal the show: “Manic Monday” and “Walk Like an Egyptian”. Charting as high as 2nd and 1st, respectively, on the billboard hot 100, if you don’t know these songs then I would be genuinely surprised. Interestingly, of the album’s 12 songs these are the only 2 that were not written by members of the band (“Manic Monday” was actually written by Prince!) but I’m not going to hold that against the girls. Containing fun and memorable choruses, pleasant tones, and genuinely creative concepts, there’s a reason that these songs can still be found on 80’s and pop stations on a regular basis. No album can be totally carried by 2 singles, however, and thankfully the Bangles more than did their part in making this one a hit.
38 minutes of puremid-80’s pop rock, this is an album that is unbelievably easy to make it through. Whether you’re tuning it out and just letting the tracks sit in the background of your consciousness or you’re paying active attention, Different Light does the trick. It’s kind of hard to mess up pop-rock music, but it’s also hard to make pop-rock that really sticks out. Now don’t get me wrong, Different Light is not some great artistic achievement that I would put next to some of the albums I’ve written about, but that it has a few songs that are able to grab your attention, keep your attention, and supply some real lyrical depth is certainly impressive.
You aren’t going to find any deep themes, grand concepts, or connecting narratives in Different Light, and I’m glad that the Bangles steered clear of those things. More than artists, these gals were entertainers and, clearly, they understood where they were most comfortable, which is great. One of the things that I found really interesting about the Bangles themselves when reading about this album is that all 4 band members, Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson, Michael Steele, and Debbi Peterson, are listed as contributing both lead and backing vocals. Also interesting is that all of them except Debbi, who was the drummer, are listed as playing guitar on this album. Unlike many bands, there was not defined role for anybody, just a group of talented entertainers each of whom could write, sing, and play instruments to an impressive degree. They don’t quite have the chemistry of the Jackson 5, but there are no points on this album where anybody feels outside of their comfort zone. The Bangles seemed to have created a space in which all 4 were able to do what they felt necessary and their combined efforts resulted in one heck of a fun album.
I know that, for the most part, this month’s albums have been mostly simple, fun albums, but sometimes that’s just exactly what the doctor ordered. The Bangles’ brand of pop-rock should be easily enjoyed by most, but if you’re craving something a little bit more out there, don’t worry. The last 2 days of this plan should sate your appetite well enough.