gymslips cvrRocking with the Renees – The Gymslips (Optic Nerve)

If East London’s The Gymslips swapped warm beer for weak cat’s piss and pretended to be in high school would they have presaged The Donnas? The English all-girl band (that’d be The Gymslips) haven’t been active since 1985 so it’s a moot point, as they say in philosophy texts.

This re-release of the Gymslips’ 1983 bubblegum punk debut LP brings a lot of froth and fun to the table. If you hadn’t worked that out by the first verse of openenign song “Renees” with its lyric “We’re the Renees/Here we come/1-2-3 and up your bum” you’re probably not trying.

“Rocking With The Renees” includes their debut single (a faithful cover of Suzie Quatro’s “48 Crash”) and 14 other tracks, one of them enigmatically listed as “Untitled”. There another four available on a vinyl EP, “Silly Egg”.

The Gymslips came into being as a trio of Suzanne Scott (bass-vocals), Paula Richards (guitar-vocals) and Karen Yarnell (drummer) in 1981. The line-up fizzled after management and personal hassles and the band re-activated with other players behind Paula Richards.

First question answered first and The Gymslips could rock. “Drink Problem”, the hooning-down-the-motorway instro “Angels” and the groovy “Robot Man” do the job while never taking themselves too seriously.

“Wandering Stars” gets its Ramones riffing on while “Renees” is plain funny and “Angels” cute enough to be mistaken for The Bangles.

By the way, “Renee” (pronounced “Ren-knee”) is a colloquial term for a mod girl, so being labelled the first female Oi band must have been a slight mindfuck. That’s what you get for drinking pints and wearing double denim, ain’t it? Back in the day, if a record label marketeer couldn’t work out how to package you, the all-powerful UK music press probably wasn’t going to do you any favours.

Was it gimmicky to be an all-girl band in 1981? If you wanted it to be, but The Gymslips clearly weren’t your average Kim Fowley puppets, with assertive lyrics mixed in with girl group allusions and cartoonish punk asides. Plus, they recorded five Peel sessions and two albums, and toured incessantly.

“Silly Egg” (helpfully appended to the promo CD) holds up as a record in its own right, with “Pie N Mash” the most English of songs and “Multi-Coloured Sugar” an effervescent pop tune. Less said about the underdone “Take Away” the better. 

One fun trip so make a beeline for the purchase link below. 


Buy it