During the punk, power pop, and new wave heyday of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Los Angeles gave birth to some of the finest bands of all three genres. From X, the Germs, the Dickies, and Social Distortion to the Knack, the Plimsouls, 20/20, the Go-Go's, and the Last, there were so many exciting bands treading the boards in Southern California. But of all the acts that emerged during this time, there were two unique outfits that used the energy of the scene but took the music in a different direction: Jules & the Polar Bears and Gary Myrick & the Figures. Both Jules Shear and Gary Myrick were immensely talented songwriters, but neither of them chose to stick to the "simple, short and sweet" formula that their contemporaries had been so successful with. Of the two, Myrick seemed the most likely to achieve commercial success.
The Texas-born guitarist formed the Figures in the midst of the power pop/new wave explosion, inking a record deal and releasing their debut album in 1980. Their self-titled debut album was an amazing slice of audio energy and excitement that still sounds fresh and invigorating nearly 30 years later. With Myrick's skillful guitar playing (he never overplays), top-notch songwriting skills, and the band's tight dynamic, this was one heck of musical statement.
While the album was one of the most impressive debut albums of the ‘80s, Myrick and co-horts crafted a slice of wax that was unique and, ultimately, hard to categorize. Was it power pop? Well, it certainly is melodic but not sweet and sugary. Is it new wave? Well, it certainly is unique but not quirky or bathed in neon colors. Gary Myrick & the Figures was an album that virtually stood alone in a sea of records that were released during this era. There were shades of rock & roll, blues, post-punk, power pop. punk, and new wave, but not enough of each genre to easily classify the album. "She Talks in Stereo" was a big radio hit and should have been the track that pushed the band to the top of the charts, but it wasn't meant to be. Other highlights off the album include the lead track "Living Disaster," "Ever Since the World Began," "Meaningless," and the epic "She's So Teenage." Not a bad song in the bunch. The only real disappointment is the fact that the album didn't do better than it should have. The excellent Wounded Bird CD reissue adds nine live tracks that prove that the band's sound was not manufactured in the studio and these prove to be essential cuts from an exciting era in music history.