Record Review: Pauline Murray + The Invisible Girls – Mr. X

Illusive | UK | 7″ | 1980 | IVE 2

Pauline Murray + The Invisible Girls: Mr. X UK 7″ [1980]

  1. Mr. X
  2. Two Shots

Pauline Murray has barely been on my radar for the last 30+ years. I had a single track by her punk band, Penetration, on an eccentric Virgin 10″ sampler that didn’t impress. That was all that I’d ever heard from Ms. Murray until a parcel from my friend Ron arrived last week with the Invisible Girls single. In a feat not likely to be repeated this year, I tried to listen to the disc as soon as possible. I expected it be marvelous; The Invisible Girls were the nom-du-musique of Martin [Factory] Hannett and Vini [Durutti Column] Reilley.

And it is! Ms. Murray has left punk behind for Post-Punk and her haunting vocals dominate the excellent A-side in spite of the A-list musical talent on display here. Vocally, it has a bit of the enigmatic, haunting quality that made Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” so appealing back in the day. The music bed has a vague underwater sound, with dubby percussion and vacillating synths adding mystery to the grounding basslines and percussion. The rhythm box is heavily slathered in reverb, but this is Martin Hannett writing, playing, and producing. Would you expect otherwise?

The B-side, “Two Shots,” is a late night noir piano ballad with the player on the far end of the huge loft in the background. There’s plenty of room for the music to echo off of the bare walls. Stuttering rhythm box is the only other accompaniment to the bass and piano. Imagine early Cure going jazz years before “Lovecats.” But the vibe here is foreboding; nothing like the cheerful Cure track.

Well, scoring a copy of the 1980 “Untitled” album by Pauline Murray + The Invisible Girls is now something of a hot-button issue in the old Record Cell. Unfortunately, the CD issues of this title [1993 – UK, 1995 – US] are seriously OOP and co$tly. I may have to remaster from a more affordable LP copy. If there are other cuts up to the caliber of “Mr. X,” it will be well worth it! This is almost as profound a delayed time bomb as it was to finally hear The Associates in 1990.

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10 Responses to Record Review: Pauline Murray + The Invisible Girls – Mr. X

  1. Echorich says:

    The Invisible Girls was just the sort of “super group” you would expect during the prime of Post Punk. They were a fluid cast of characters anchored by Hannett and Stephen Hopkins. Involvement from Bill Nelson, Alan Rawlings and Vini Reilly brought them to my attention. I wasn’t much of a John Coopers Clarke fan so when they were his backing band I was unaware of them really. They were a bit of a revolving door as well and this might have been part of the reason that the Pauline Murray era didn’t last past a few singles and an album.
    But what an album. There is so much energy here…Mr. X is a great track, but probably not even the best one. Thundertunes and European Eyes are vital. Pauline Murray is the girl that got left behind…or maybe chose to wait for the next bus. So much should have gone her way and yet not much really did. She is a cult Punk/Post Punk figure who was maybe a decade ahead of her time. Punk couldn’t contain her and Post Punk maybe didn’t evolve fast enough for her. There is a Peel Session out there that I have hear on the interweb and one track, the Peel version of When Will We Learn, is just amazing – probably my favorite recording of the band.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I’m chagrined that this project totally slipped by me back in the day. My first issue of Trouser Press was the May ’81 issue, so it was already past tense and I never heard of it. There wasn’t a follow up either. I like John Cooper Clarke but you don’t really listen to him for the music, so the Invisible Girls never clicked with me. I must get this album sooner than later. How, I’m not sure.

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      • Echorich says:

        The Post Punk landscape was not very easy on “the Girls.” Pauline Murray, Palmolive, The Raincoats, Delta 5, Marine Girls…I think it was tough to be taken seriously even by the indie labels. Most bands had only one album, or were only reviewed by critics for one album. Pauline’s work as The Storm is pretty great as well. She did a remake of The Alex Chilton/Big Star song Holocaust which I think matches and maybe exceeds the original. But by then no one was really listening anymore.
        One other thing with Mr. X – I’ve always thought there was a kinship to Simple Minds in sound from around the same time.

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  2. Simon H says:

    Good news:: DLX double cd on the way in October, including the Peel session…will upgrade my 20 year old cd.

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  3. Simon H says:

    The rest of the album is as good as the single, 1980 was a great year!

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  4. Simon H says:

    No problem, working my way through some old threads…have to be careful it can work out expensive!

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