Make More Noise review – The new wave of women who made their voices heard

X-Ray Spex, The Slits, Au Pairs, Tracey Thorn – the hit list goes on over four fab CDs

Make More Noise – Women in Independent Music UK 1977-1987
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Artist: Various Artists
Genre: Alternative
Label: Cherry Red

A manifesto of sorts from long-forgotten UK band Bright Girls defines this immensely insightful 4-disc collection. Their 1980 song Hidden from History (“how does it feel to be left out in the cold?”) is just one from the punk/post-punk era that highlighted what was something of a insurrection for female-led music.

Prompted by X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene (“Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard . . . but I think, ‘oh bondage, up yours!’”), musicians and songwriters documented their lives as women that weren’t about to live like their postwar mothers. Assertive self-expression runs through here: from Au Pairs’ Diet and The Slits’ Typical Girls to Tracey Thorn’s Small Town Girl and The Raincoats’ No One’s Little Girl, it was clear that an important cultural shift was taking place.

As the time span of the title makes clear, however, it isn't all about post-punk. The latter pair of CDs highlight work by women that may have been inspired by X-Ray Spex, The Slits et al, but who gradually developed their own styles. The likes of Alison Moyet, Sinead O'Connor, Cocteau Twins, Voice of the Beehive, Strawberry Switchblade, The Primitives and Darling Buds nestled just as comfortably into the charts as their male counterparts. More crucially, they developed a different language, different viewpoints, that 30-plus years later are still being adhered to.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture