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AU PAIRS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Playing with a Different Sex (UK Human) 1981
Sense and Sensuality (UK Kamera) 1982
Live in Berlin (UK a.k.a.) 1983

Although the quartet was evenly divided between the sexes, the trademarks of Birmingham's Au Pairs were singer/guitarist Lesley Woods' husky vocals and her feminist themes. They favored stripped-down, generally tuneless dance-rock, perhaps the better to drive home ironic messages like "We're So Cool," "Set-Up" (both on the first album), "Sex Without Stress" and "Intact" (on Sense and Sensuality). A female viewpoint is, unfortunately, still novel for pop music; Woods is humorless and sometimes oozingly graphic, but usually thought-provoking in her romantic analyses. Au Pairs' few overtly political songs ("Armagh," "America") are less successful.

The live album, recorded at the Berlin Women's Festival, finds the group in good form, running through their best songs with careful intensity. The rhythm section is especially good, but Woods predictably dominates the proceedings.

[Scott Isler/Ira Robbins]