1981, Music

Playing With a Different Sex (1981) by Au Pairs

This is an excellent feminist post punk record that has right been compared to Gang of Four, both for its political lyrics and its danceability.

The songs are very much punk songs fashioned for the Gang of Four school of post punk (as to the Joy Division school). They are slower and softer performed this way but are catchy enough for the performances. (For me, strong melodies are less of a requirement for this version of post punk than the really dour, moody version, which needs better melodies to succeed.)

The real distinctness in this band is the lyrics – which are extremely feminist, sort of more political and less over-the-top than Crass and a little closer to maybe the Slits or the Raincoats. So imagine the lead singers of any of those bands fronting Gang of Four and you get some idea of the politics of this band (as well as the sound).

It’s pretty easy to criticize this record for sounding too much like Gang of Four, I think. But both guitarists here are a little more angular even than Gang of Four. Having a female lead singer really helps separate them and they are objectively good at the dance punk thing. I think they also indulge in slight stylistic variability compared to early Gang of Four (though this all very relative).

If you like Gang of Four, you should like this. And if you’re looking for some biting feminist punk critiques of society, you should also like this. If you only like the former, not the latter, you will likely struggle. But I think the thing I like most about it, myself, is that this band has made their message a little bit more accessible than some of their contemporaries (who made weirder or harsher music).

Pretty good stuff.


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