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Shampoo – Complete Shampoo (Cherry Red)

Girl Power was in its ascendancy when Riot Grrl’s Shampoo entered the music scene. Their first two singles had struck notes familiar to the movement, where bands such as L7, Babes In Toyland and Bikini Kill had nailed their colours to the mast. This sound was a little full-on for their audience, their first two singles ‘Blisters and Bruises’ and ‘Bouffant Headbutt’ failing to make any significant mark and so with their third single ‘Trouble’, they changed tack, injecting colour into their sound and, with this, achieving a number 11 single. Another band who followed hot on their heels were The Spice Girls, but it should be remembered that Shampoo were there first, charting with the single ‘Girl Power’, a week before The Spice Girls released ‘Wannabe’ and some 3 years since becoming a band, although the idea of Shampoo was started at school. The single ‘Trouble’ was featured in the 1995 film Mighty Morphine Power Rangers. Did you watch it? No, neither did I. I was probably travelling to Bristol, to catch L7 at the time, although my failure to watch the film shouldn’t be considered a sleight on the band. Jacqui Blake and Carrie Askew had appeared in the Manic Street Preachers video ‘Little Baby Nothing’, having earlier written Last Exit, a fanzine for the Manics. So you can perhaps recognise where the “riot grrl” desire had come from and although ‘Trouble’ was far from this, the suggestion was in the title.

This set of recordings hears the duo’s entire back catalogue, presented over 3 CDs and 1 DVD. The set, which features 57 audio tracks, includes the band’s 3 studio albums, from We Are Shampoo, Girl Power to the internet-only release of Absolute Shampoo, surely a must for any fan. Beginning with the track that made the band a commercial success, ‘Trouble’, this is followed by their 5th single ’Delicious‘. It begins with a riff which bears similarities to The Mock Turtles ‘Can You Dig It?’, but getting over this, I heard a number that is filled with an anthemic tone, which screams with a wish to be bigger and better than their counterparts. The further the listener proceeds through the album, you can still hear moments that suggest “riot grrl” is where their heart lies. I found it amusing that the band had recorded the track ‘Game Boy’ paying homage to this hand-held marvel, 5 years after the Japanese company Nintendo originally put this into the hands of their customers. But remember in 1994 this was still de rigueur and sometime before mobile phones had managed to provide the same experience. As a market, Japan certainly paid them back in spades, their debut album selling over a million copies worldwide, with the first 2 albums reaching top-10 in Japan and the compilation album Delicious, number 6 in 1995. So success in Japan and South East Asia wasn’t short in coming.

Both of the physically released albums, We Are Shampoo and Girl Power have come with a host of additional tracks, 14 on the first, and 9 on the second. These for me right the wrong of not having included the first 2 singles on this album originally. This first single, a slicing punk-rock-number and the second, a thumping track, complete with a hard-driven guitar solo, not to mention some choice language. The second album, ‘Girl Power’ starts its additional content with their cover of Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ and I have to say how accomplished this version was. Containing a vocal which is inevitably of 2 London Girls, its musical backing is undoubtedly good, containing a pace and verve that drives the song. This is followed by another b-side and the band’s version of The Rezillos‘Top Of The Pops’ and it has to be said is another winner. Placed side by side, The Rezillos fell at the first hurdle in comparison, recording techniques bringing Shampoo’s version up to date, with a solid performance by the band.

That third, download-only released album Absolute Shampoo, albeit a very good set of songs, did look to the future, before the future was fully formed. Released in 2000, this album came before it was considered music downloads were the birth of the digital revolution. An album, that if you’re prepared to pay silly money, physical copies are available, but the band taking a risk on releasing an internet-only album, didn’t achieve a chart placing, although it has to be said this is not a bad album. Its opening number ‘Shampoo’s Cupboard’, tells of growing up in the Seventies, with references made to a few cultural sources, if you can call Crackerjack, Donkey Kong and Speak and Spell, cultural sources, with the track ‘Inspector Gadget’ following. As I’ve said, the band’s final album is pretty good, with songs such as ‘Terrorist TV’ telling of living in the 90s, when a diet of Richard and Judy, Esther and Vanessa were the norm for students, the retired and the unemployed, and it would seem musicians seeking inspiration. I would like to have seen how successful this album would have been, had it been released conventionally.

I was aware of Shampoo, when they emerged in the 90s, but wouldn’t have considered them my listening pleasure. Having had the opportunity to listen to this back catalogue, I am surprised at how good this is. My favourites of the set I would say were ‘Bouffant Headbutt’, perhaps from the line “…I’m going to rearrange your face…”, or maybe it’s when they pronounce “You’re fucking dead”. The track ‘Excellent’, a b-side from the first album, their cover of The Waitresses ‘I Know What Boys Like’, from the second, the cover of Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ and ‘Inspector Gadget’ from their final album. A very worthwhile release.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.