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Album of the Week: Pearl Harbor & the ExplosionsEXPAND
Michael Jang

Album of the Week: Pearl Harbor & the Explosions

Pearl Harbor & the Explosions
Pearl Harbor & the Explosions (Blixa Sounds reissue)

As everybody should know by now, the music industry is rarely fair. When a German teen then known as Pearl E. Gates left her homeland in search of the exciting music she'd been reading about in San Francisco, changed her name to Pearl Harbor and formed the Explosions with the Stench Brothers (bassist Hilary and drummer John), things should have really taken off.

The self-titled debut album was released in 1980, and there's absolutely no reason why the many new wave fans buying records at that time shouldn't have lapped it up with manic enthusiasm. Pearl Harbor & the Explosions made the cover of Bam Magazine, they toured with the Talking Heads, and they started to develop a bit of a buzz.

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More important, though, the songs on the album are tremendous. There's enough snotty punk energy to speak to fans of X-Ray Spex and Siouxsie & the Banshees, while also adding enough suave pop suss to drag in those who enjoyed Blondie and, later, L.A. bands such as The Go-Go's and The Bangles.

"Drivin'" is an energetic lead-off track, a crunchy introduction, while the likes of "Shut Up and Dance" and "The Big One" could have been radio hits. As was often the case with new wave bands, there's a touch of reggae about the guitar that was super popular at the time.

This reissue of the album, which has been out of print for years, comes with bonus tracks — some B-sides, live tunes and a radio spot. Plus, some comprehensive liner notes from Joel Selvin. Who this album is for in 2019 is a bit of a mystery. There's not really been a deafening campaign for a Pearl Harbor & the Explosions reissue. That said, anybody who does stumble upon it is in for a rare treat, especially those with an affection for '80s California punk and new wave.

Pearl Harbor & the Explosions were over less than two years after the band started. Harbor relocated to England and, true to national linguistics, changed her name to Pearl Harbour. She married The Clash's Paul Simonen and recorded a rockabilly solo album backed by the Brit punk legends. Then it all went a bit quiet, although she's based in L.A. now and has been playing out again. Keep an eye out.

Album of the Week: Pearl Harbor & the Explosions
Blixa Sounds

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