Girl – Wasted Youth: Six CD Expanded Set (HNE Recordings)
Way back in the mists of rock and roll time Phil Collen hadn’t even joined Def Leppard.
Phil Lewis was yet to test the water with Tracii Guns.
And across the UK there was a raging battle between punk’s fading stars, NWOBHM’s new kids on the block and hair metal’s glamtastic forefathers.
Girl – featuring Lewis on lead vocals and Collen as one half of a twin axe attack – found themselves fighting for survival in a genre-obsessed jungle.
They had it all: the metal mentality, the punk attitude and the feminine good looks.
But having it all didn’t necessarily help.
And this band out of time never quite settled on the easily identifiable sound that might have persuaded the masses to back a truly raucous live act.
Listen to Live At The Marquee Club 1981 and Lewis’s connection with the crowd shines through…and his vocals aren’t bad either.
Old Dogs (a co-write between Girl’s frontman and bassist Simon Laffy) – from the following year’s Wasted Youth album – is killer.
But Big Night is beefier still as Lewis and Collen combine to give the likes of Leppard and Saxon a run for their money.
This six-CD collection affords fans opportunities aplenty to reassess Girl in their natural environment with four live albums included.
And it’s a measure of the band’s natural talent and showmanship that they sound at their furious best far beyond the sanctuary of the sanitised studio.
But this collection centres on 1982’s Wasted Youth – the follow-up to debut Sheer Greed and a record that was meant to take Girl to the next level both creatively and commercially.
And if it represented an ambitious leap forward in terms of songwriting and variety then sales bombed.
Wasted Youth limped into the Top 100 and never came close to matching the top 40 success of its lauded predecessor.
Who knows why?
Old Dogs, Nice N Nasty and the tasty title track are all terrific snapshots of Girl’s quality and all three feature prominently on Live In Tokyo – a telling staging post in the quintet’s brief but brilliant career.
But Wasted Youth suffers from the perceived problem that always plagued Lewis, Collen and co. – diversity.
There’s raw rock and roll, punk, metal, funk, glam and more. Ice In The Blood could be Fishbone at their best while Overnight Angels is roaring blues rock.
There are the crisp, crunching hard rock riffs which made Collen the prefect for a post-Pete Willis Leppard.
And Lewis is given free reign to explore his full range.
Is there a bona fide radio hit? Perhaps not.
But there’s a depth to the songwriting craft that was criminally overlooked when set against disappointing sales.
The real treasure trove here for the Girl die-hards is CD2: Killing Time is a 20-track trip into a previously untapped back catalogue packed with covers, out-takes and more.
A joyous version of the Russ Ballard-penned Juliet is made for Lewis and the set-closing Kinks cover You Really Got Me rocks hard.
Girl might be nothing more than an often-overlooked footnote in the story of British rock’s early 80s explosion.
But there’s a reason Collen and Lewis were two of hair metal’s key players towards the end of the decade.