The big takeaway from a listen to Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985, out now from Cherry Red Records, is the sheer breadth of what made up UK indie in an era -- a few, actually -- that gave birth to the sounds that still shape music today. Starting from the post-punk period and going up to the year before C86 reshaped the sonic landscape of more than one continent, Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 offers up 40+ female-fronted acts that, much like the awesome Dolly Mixture (pictured up above), defy genre and invent new ones.
Sure, there's stuff here you may be somewhat familiar with (Marine Girls with Tracey Thorn, Strawberry Switchblade, The Mo-Dettes) but there's also stuff that will genuinely surprise you: the Ian Dury-associated "The Jam Jar Song" by Ingrid, or the absolutely superb girl group touches of "If That's What You Want" by Mari Wilson and the Imaginations, or even the Top 40 proto Kylie-isms of "Jump Back" by Dee Walker (pictured below).
Elsewhere, there's a glimpse of stuff that should have been more popular at the time: "The Boy Hairdresser" by Style Council-associated Tracie, or "I Could Have Been Your Girlfriend" by Dolly Mixture spin-off Coming Up Roses. Even the rare cut on this set that borders on what would be termed twee later -- "Summer Blues" by Sarah Goes Shopping -- strays closer to early Altered Images and Clare Grogan territory than it really does to anything else.
There are also cuts here that serve as templates for generations of DIY stuff in the 3 decades after 1985: the excellent "I Hate Being In Love" by Amy and The Angels (pictured below), and proto-riot grrl hooks of "Normal" by The Petticoats. At no point is one bored here as styles fly by in a blur of wonderful inventiveness. If nothing else, Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 reminds how easily genre labels can be smudged, and boundaries -- both stylistic and gender-based -- can be crossed.
Out now via Cherry Red Records, Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 is a remarkable achievement in chronicling the years we call the post-punk era -- when experimentation was cherished among the Peel acolytes who make up a lot of this set's performers -- and all the way up to the pre-C86 era. Spanning pseudo-ska, to punk, to well-produced alternative, the 40+ cuts here all charm and bring a lot of spirit and life to what we thing of as, frankly, the lean years between other, so-called better eras in British rock history. Maybe now, with a listen to Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985, one can get a sense of the greatness of U.K. indie outside the obvious bursts of creativity -- the peaks in 1977 or 1986 -- that we celebrate so often otherwise. Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 showcases not only a few dozen female-fronted bands that deserve more attention now, but also a much wider range of stylistic invention than one realized was occurring back then. In fact, a listener could argue that Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 is, by setting up its goal-posts in those 2 years and surveying what's inbetween, defining another distinct era in U.K. indie that now will -- maybe -- get as much attention as the cuts from all those fine C86 bands, for example.
Sharon Signs To Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979-1985 is out now via Cherry Red Records.