Sound — 8
1983 saw the release of the Divinyls' debut album "Desperate" - a raw, hard edged rock/new wave sound that pounded in your skull (in a good way) until the last track was finished. It was a rock album through and through with Chrissy and Mark never letting up for a second. Two years later they released their sophomore album "What A Life!" the title no doubt stemming from the crazy world of rock that they found themselves immersed in. The album is a lot more polished and has more of a pop mentality. The band still rocks as they always did on "Desperate" but it is a more mature/slick sound; this album seemingly drawing more from the New Wave aspect of their sound, proving this is the heavier use of synthesizer than on "Desperate". This album slows it down a little but this helps you to get to know Chrissy and Mark as songwriters. It isn't better or worse than "Desperate" (a personal favourite of mine) it's just different. The album unfortunately didn't yield any hits outside of their home country, Australia, but it contains one of their most identifiable tracks and over time it has become a New Wave classic; "Pleasure And Pain" and funnily enough the title just about sums up the whole album. With songs like "Sleeping Beauty" the band shows a more vulnerable side and also shows that they have more than one gear. They still rock out with songs like "Heart Telegraph", "Talk Like The Rain" and "Guillotine Day" (a fun ode to Marie Antoinette) you get a mix of more emotionally open tracks and also you get their trademark full on white hot rock. This album is a departure from anything they did before or since but that is it's weakness and strength, a compelling listen.
Lyrics — 9
Despite the album being slicker and more mature, Chrissy's vocals are actually gruffer (this might be due to her lifestyle at the time) however it works, when she give out that trademark rock snarl it is spellbinding but this gruffness also works for their more restrained/emotional material. Chrissy is a very talented lyricist and it's a shame she doesn't get much recognition for it. One of the b-sides "In My Life" is probably one of the best songs she wrote up to that point. The song seemingly to be about trying to get out of your home town and going on to something better and being fearful that it might never change whilst using dreams to alter and change memories to make it easier to accept that fact. This album is a transitional album, "Desperate" was like their angsty, lust driven years, I think "What A Life!" is like their early twenties, them trying to figure out who they are, trying to let go of childhood fantasies while still being unsure, confused and fearful of adult responsibility, the genuinely lyrics reflect this.
Overall Impression — 9
If you want a out-and-out rock album, I suggest you pick up their first album, or their first EP. In their early years I think they just got a riff from Mark and built a song around it. The songs on this album feel a lot more formed and thought through, structurally they flow a lot better then it's predecessor and lyrically Chrissy has evolved in her skills. Mark also has gotten, not better but his hooks and melody have improved. The songs that stand out for me on this album (if you don't want to buy it at least look the songs up on YouTube) are: "Good Die Young", "In My Life", "Heart Telegraph" and of course "Pleasure And Pain". Divinyls are a very underrated band, they are a very solid and innovative talent. They were/are respected musicians in their home country (them having many top 10's and top 20's) but unfortunately, abroad they are thought of as one hit wonders. Do yourself a favour and look into their back catalogue you will find yourself humming their tunes all day long.