• A's
  • The A's (Arista) 1979 
  • A Woman's Got the Power (Arista) 1981 
  • Four Dances EP (Straight A's) 1982 

One of the first bands on Philadelphia’s new wave club scene to sign with a major label, the A’s made their reputation through an energetic stage show which featured singer Richard Bush’s Jerry Lewis-like antics. On the group’s first album, Bush shows an equal aptitude for playing the comedian (“Teenage Jerk Off,” an affectionately tongue-in-cheek nod to punk) and the straight man (the outstanding “After Last Night”). If anything, The A’s resembles the Boomtown Rats’ Tonic for the Troops in the way it combines wit, street savvy and relatively intricate hard-pop arrangements.

On A Woman’s Got the Power, the group’s sound and material changed drastically, and not for the better: The album is an exercise in misplaced bombast. Bush’s occasional excesses are charming on the first outing, but here he consistently over-emotes, imbuing the songs with angst they don’t really merit. While the big sound works well enough for the first couple of tracks (the soulful title tune and the pretty “Electricity”), the bluster then begins to grate; there isn’t another listenable cut on the album.

Back on their own, the A’s pulled in their horns with a 12-inch of four modestly presented rock songs. On the plus side, the likable “Do the Dance” sounds like a techno-pop club tune without the electronics, while “Girl That I Love” is crisp skinny tie Beatle-pop. But when “Ain’t No Secret” devolves into a blithering jam of arena guitars and synthesizer riffing, it’s time for the B’s.

[Dave Schulps / Ira Robbins]