Girl Rock, Girl Rock. Blah, blah, blah. Bikini Kill, X-Ray Spex, The Breeders. Right, right. If you ask me, the Dolly Mixture blows them all sideways. Yeah, I know--who?

The Dolly Mixture was a British trio that formed in 1979, put out a handful of brilliant singles and one of the most obscure and collectible records of the punk era. The Dolly Mixture Demonstration Tapes is a double album of the band's entire output from 1979 to 1983, and has punk toughness, girl-group vocal harmonies, and the perfect pop structures of the Brill Building songwriters. The Dolly Mixture was like the Shangri-La's minus the gum-cracking Queens accent. Or the Go-Go's if they had any class. Or the Raincoats without the weirdness and electric violins.

Purportedly the girlfriends of the Damned, the Dolly Mixture never took on the studied attitude of the U.K. punk scene. They depicted themselves in cartoons knitting and bike riding--hardly activities any self-respecting punk would be caught dead at. With zest and finesse instead of bray and holler, they resisted the three-chord bash of their contemporaries. They were musically adept and unafraid to haul out the occasional piano or cello accompaniment. They sang about independence long before it was an acknowledged practice. The full-on sass of "How Come You're Such a Hit with the Boys, Jane?" pre-dated riot grrl by a decade.

I first heard the Demonstration Tapes on a fourth-generation cassette that sounded like someone had pressed "Play" and "Record" on a different continent from where the record was spinning. But even through the hiss and din, I knew I was hearing something solid and perfect. I spent four years searching for the album. (And by the way--if you and your boyfriend are looking for a rare record at the same time and he finds it first and won't give it to you, break up with him on the spot.) One day I got a message from a friend who had sighted it in a Portland record shop: "I left it in the Space Rock section so no one else would find it." It was the first and last time that I trembled when buying a record. It was $6.99.

Luckily for us, Bob Stanley of St. Etienne put together a re-issue CD of The Dolly Mixture Demonstration Tapes on Royal Mint Records a couple of years ago. So there's no need for you to miss out on the most charming record ever made. You can just hop down to the record shop and buy it. You don't even have to break up with anybody.