Tear Off Your Own Head/Here Right Now by the Bangles, 2003

The Bangles are the proto girl group – great musicians, great writing, great singing. Their few hits were mostly covers, which is a shame because they write great songs on their own. From their very first EP (again, a cut-out buy from the Penguin Feather), I was smitten with their tight sound and Susanna Hoff’s babydoll/slut voice. They are the real thing, and despite multiple break-ups and reformations, they are still performing 35 years after that first EP.

But this song . . . it’s like when I heard Tom Wolfe was writing a book about the Mercury astronauts: my favorite writer and my favorite topic brought together like chocolate and peanut butter to make something greater than the whole. (Synergy – see, my MBA actually came in handy there.) “Tear Off Your Own Head” is an Elvis Costello song, with his usual brilliant wordplay and offbeat topic. But he really hasn’t rocked out much since his first four or five albums, and his version of this song is a little boring. But in the hands of the Bangles, it is brilliant.

“Here Right Now” is a perfect Bangles song, written by drummer Debbi Peterson. (Thereby joining Mickey Dolenz and Karen Carpenter in that spooky group of drummers who can sing while they’re drumming.) This is exactly the kind of song I love the most, like REM’s “Stand,” where the singer is basically telling the audience “Hey, get your head out of your ass and appreciate what you’ve got, idiot,” and I get chills every time I hear it. Fast, chiming, with gorgeous harmonies, and all the notes nailed down like they were fired from a Black and Decker nailgun. Turn it way up and weep.

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