little girlsValley Songs – Little Girls (Playback Records)

If only all retrospective collections were half as fun - and done as well - as this look back on 1980s Los Angeles surfer girl power-poppers, Little Girls. There are 26 bouncy rave-ups on this CD, it’s accompanied by a booklet full of photos and liner notes, and it took an Australian label to put it out.

Little Girls were diminutive sisters Caron and Michele Maso, two Coloradoans transplanted to L.A. who turned heads as a duo at a 1980 party by singing alternative lyrics to “Anarchy in the UK”. Now, who hasn’t wanted to do that?

Things got serious after they met guitarist Kip Brown, freshly late of local punks SHOCK, while hanging out at The Troubadour club. A full band ensued.

Little Girls only managed to issue one EP (with “Earthquake Song” and “How To Pick Up Girls” breaking out onto local radio.) If you twigged Rodney Bingenheimer was a supporter, you guessed right.

There are a few line-ups featured, including Brown’s  pop surf band The Hollyberries, and contributions from. Blondie’s Nigel Harrison and Clem Burke. Production credits include Ed Stasium (famed Ramones studio master) and Jonathan Paley (of major label Great White Hopes, the Paley Brothers).   

The collection includes the entire “Thank Heaven” EP and doesn’t lose anything from the generous sprinkling of demos. Yes, Little Girls had songs. They bounce around stylistically but they’re mostly sunny and well recorded, with the familial harmonies of the sisters front and centre.  

Hooks ahoy: “Bandanna” is a great pop rocker, “Second Thoughts” a classy ballad that could have given The Bangles a run for their money. The leather-clad “Not A Perfect World” rocks with harmonies so tough you could crack nuts on them."I Wanna Go Surfing With Santa" is a hoot. 

Then there's "He's a Bad Boy", a 2020 reformaiton recording that unwittingly sounds like a blatant rip of Neil Young's "Pochahontas". (Jonathan Paley responds: "I just want to point out the the chord changes and melody line in 'He's A Bad Boy' were written, recorded and released by Carol King a couple of decades before the  first part of the verses in  Neil Young's 'Pocahontas'. ) 

You don’t have to be from the San Fernando Valley to appreciate the lyrical cynicism dripping from “The Valley Song”, even if you’re not crazy about the song arrangement. The odd cover (“Any Way You Want It” actually smokes the Ramones’ take) is rendered faithfully and with energy.

The tempos/energy slacken a jot on the more contemporary recordings, but none of us is in the flower of our youth. One thing is clear: the original version of "Left Without A Real Kiss" leaves the re-arranged one for dead. 

This is a record that’s very, er, Los Angeles. Putting aside punk and the wave of hardcore that followed, power-pop was all the rage in SoCal in the early ‘80s. From this distant vantage point (Australia), it’s a mystery why Little Girls didn’t make it onto a major label. As the liners reveal, however, they didn’t tour nationally and possibly suffered a degree of novelty act backlash.

Another one that got away? Judge for yourself. You can pick up a copy here.