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Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy, Tribe 8 and more: Hear 25 songs that fueled a bedrock revolution.
By EVELYN MCDONNELL and ELISABETH VINCENTELLIMAY 6, 2019
A contempo improvement of punk-powered feminism — or is that girl-powered punk? — raises the question: What was, or is, anarchism grrrl? A movement, a genre, an era, a scene?
The spelling itself is disputed: some OGs (original grrrls) altercate two rs, others three; some aloof say girl. The appellation originated about 1991 about as a joke, an abrupt animadversion that got accounting into mimeographed fanzines that broadcast amidst jailbait bedrock and feminist communities aboriginal in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast, again above the country, and eventually about the world. There was a decentralized but able arrangement of activist capacity that organized protests and performances, fabricated art and zines, and additionally aloof sat about and talked — adopting alertness one babe at a time. And of course, there were recordings: handmade cassette tapes, small-label 45s, EPs, LPs and alike CDs.
Politically, anarchism grrrl accursed feminism into the future: Centering the needs of a new bearing via direct-action strategies, amusing mantras and slogans such as “girl power” and “support babe love,” it became one of the best arresting branches of what was dubbed third beachcomber feminism. But materially the music was old-school, arguably the aftermost bang of a predigital age. The mantra of the day was “do it yourself.” If you wrote a acceptable song, you recorded it as bound and cheaply as you could, again apprenticed it up and ashore it central some cut-up-graphics-style cardboard sleeve. The songs were put out by bounded labels like K, Annihilate Bedrock Stars, Chainsaw, Outpunk and Dischord. Some aboriginal saw the ablaze of day on accumulation albums like the “International Pop Underground Convention,” “Stars Annihilate Rock” and “Move Into Villa Villa Kula.”
No agreement or cast fabricated an act anarchism grrrl. The bands below about independent associates who articular as such, or performed at shows organized by bounded chapters, or sang about feminist issues over adamantly under-processed music from 1991 to 1996. Some were what the artisan Tracie Morris calls “riot grrrl adjacent”: They existed afore or formed accompanying but alone from the activist centers. Before, above and beside anarchism grrrl there was an insurgence of barbaric changeable acts arena music that was about added and below candidly political: the Lunachicks, Frightwig, L7, Babes in Toyland, the Nymphs, Hole, the Gits. But that’s addition list.
Leapt aloft by the media, anarchism grrrl abolished about as bound as it embodied — too adamant or afraid to attempt or get sucked into the mainstream. But its access has persisted, resurfacing in the aftermost decade with the traveling art exhibition “Alien She,” books including the boyish developed atypical “Moxie” (optioned by Amy Poehler’s blur company), and untold numbers of bands, best abundantly Pussy Riot. In the deathwatch of this anarchism grrrl renaissance, or resurgence, the OGs are accomplishment their abode in history, and their atom on the stage. In the able year, Annihilate Bedrock Stars produced a podcast commemorating the 25th ceremony of Bratmobile’s admission album, “Pottymouth,” and two key groups — Bikini Annihilate and Team Dresch — accept reunited for tours and are rereleasing albums. Bikini Annihilate played its aboriginal appearance in added than two decades on April 25; tickets awash out anon for its bound tour.
This is a account of capital anarchism grrrl music, one song per artisan — a starting point, not a totality. If you don’t like our list, accomplish your own. That’s the point, really. Do it yourself. EVELYN McDONNELL
The Seattle grunge bandage 7 Year Bitch was about advised anarchism grrrl adjacent, but few advance bidding the abolitionist acerbity of the era bigger than this age-old scream canticle accusatory animal assault. The diva Selene Vigil shouts anniversary chat of the appellation in ascendance tones, as if she’s absolutely advertence a point that should be obvious. E.M.
The Washington quartet Autoclave — not anarchism grrrls per se, but boyish travelers — was a absolute cast for two of the city’s best artistic musicians: the amazing guitarist Mary Timony (who would go on to Helium and Ex Hex, as able-bodied as a abounding abandoned career) and the bassist Christina Billotte (who switched to guitar in Slant 6 and Quixotic). The band’s self-titled accumulation is a abundance accession of arrhythmic beats and egg-shaped lyrics, and its admission single, “Go Far,” showcases confident, understatedly adult songwriting. ELISABETH VINCENTELLI
It starts with a acknowledgment of war: “We’re Bikini Kill, and we appetite chaos girl-style now!” An adventurous hypothesis follows: Be yourself. The aboriginal song on the aboriginal almanac by Bikini Annihilate accustomed the barrier for the action to come. The guitarist Billy Karren’s squeals of acknowledgment are like an amplified throat clearing, while Kathi Wilcox’s bass delivers boot orders. Kathleen Hanna speaks anon and carefully to a changeable admirers — “Hey girlfriend!” — again Tobi Vail rapid-fires on the snare, and annihilation would anytime be the same.
“Rebel Girl,” from the aforementioned record, is accepted as the absolute anarchism grrrl anthem, the ultimate snapshot of the genre’s power-punk music and feminist heroism. But “Double Dare Ya” tossed the boys to the aback of the allowance and pulled the girls to the advanced with its siren call. Hanna’s vocals are a curiosity of affecting swagger, amusement and acerbity as she speaks to boyish hearts in the accent they know: bitter the acrimonious of parents, the blowing of boyfriends and the arrogant of the patriarchy, again assuredly shouting the alarm to accoutrements of charlatan friends: “You do accept rights!” E.M.
The University of Oregon acceptance Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman were an basic allotment of the anarchism grrrl agent adventure — their zine “Girl Germs” was a cut-and-paste feminist samizdat that aboriginal came out in aboriginal 1991. Naturally, a bandage followed, with Erin Smith, from Washington, abutting on guitar. Unlike abounding of its peers, Bratmobile fabricated annal that about akin its alive shows’ exhilarant blitz — its adage was aloof as abundant get up and action as get up and dance. Wolfe advantaged ancient cat’s-eye glasses and vaguely awakening summer dresses, upending decades of expectations about women in bedrock bands: Here was addition who looked like a prim librarian spitting out acid-tongued harangues and taunts. On “Love Thing,” from the band’s admission album, “Pottymouth,” Neuman’s implacable, active exhausted and the surfy curve Smith wrings from her best bead Kapa guitar accumulate blame Wolfe’s sing-screaming. The lyrics accept acquired a prescient, absinthian resonance in the age of #MeToo, and yet the song pulses with the communicable bedrock ’n’ cycle élan that characterized Bratmobile. E.V.
After Bratmobile disbanded (temporarily, it would about-face out), Wolfe and Smith formed Cold Cold Hearts with the Cutthroats bassist Nattles and the bagman Katherine Brown. Everything about that admixture was bare-bones: its discography (one 7” and one album), its songs (under two minutes) and its assembly (minimal but poppy). But Cold Cold Hearts austere ablaze and was funny, too, absolutely indulging in the amusement that apparent Bratmobile’s best songs. Smith’s arena on “Any Resemblance…,” from the band’s self-titled LP, is a agitated admixture of the B-52’s and the Cramps at bastardize speed. Wolfe’s bandage “Any affinity to bodies active or asleep is absolutely coincidental” may able-bodied blow fun at anarchism grrrl’s close-to-the-vest lyrics, or conceivably at the baleful battles that eventually collection wedges amidst bands, musicians and fans. E.V.
The sisters Amy and Wendy Yao formed Emily’s Sassy Lime (it’s a palindrome) with their aerial academy acquaintance Emily Ryan in Southern California, legendarily afterwards cheating out of their houses to see Bratmobile and Bikini Kill. They played archaic shambolic pop in the spirit of the Shaggs and Shonen Knife. This song, from their admission album, “Desperate, Scared, But Social,” is a quintessential jailbait plaint adjoin the Man. E.M.
“Watchmaker” aloof may be a acknowledgment to the press’s acknowledgment to anarchism grrrl. “I appetite to rip off your best catchphrase/Smear your face above the music page,” Carrie Brownstein snarls over Becca Albee’s guitar and CJ Phillips’s drums on the band’s additional and aftermost album, “Such Friends Are Dangerous.” “Watchmaker” is at already able (the choir “I asked you what time it was/Not how to accomplish a watch” charcoal an able acknowledgment to mansplaining) and affronted — Brownstein lets rip the barrage that Sleater-Kinney admirers would appear to apperceive well. E.M.
Created at the aurora of the 1980s in Toronto, this bandage advancing both the anarchism grrrl and queercore scenes, which it bridged aback these movements were in abounding blossom in the aboriginal 1990s. The quintet, led by the accompanist Caroline Azar and the guitarist G.B. Jones, begin afflatus in the alien alcove of pop ability (B movies, underground artists like Tom of Finland), which it argument aback out coated in a abnormally aweless cast of feminism. Jones, additionally an able beheld artist, affecting zinemeister and Super 8 auteur, helped accomplish Fifth Column as abundant a amusing conceptual art activity as a arguable bedrock band. E.V.
A ancillary activity from Bratmobile’s Neuman and Bikini Annihilate bare Hanna, Frumpies accepted recorded-in-a-tin-can assembly values, fuzzed-out guitar and sing-songy vocals. The bandage didn’t put out abundant music — a scattering of 7” singles amidst 1993 and 2000, calm in the anthology “Frumpie One-Piece” — but anniversary of its tracks, like “Eunuch Nights,” summoned the august carelessness of hundreds of barn bands and reclaimed lo-fi as the complete of American girls. E.V.
Riot grrrl’s frank, accessible angle about changeable and anatomy backroom were groundbreaking, and the movement acclaimed changeable adherence and friendship. But it took the actualization of Gossip to get a charlatan who proudly alleged herself a “fat, feminist lesbian”: Beth Ditto. On the aboriginal song “Where the Girls Are,” the leash meshed a melody bandage evocative of the Sonics’ “Have Love, Will Travel” with to-the-point lyrics: “Come on home with me tonight/Let me adulation you all night long.” Ditto, who had fled Arkansas for the added advanced pastures of Olympia, Wash., additionally brought soulful stylings and a able belt to the anarchism universe, heretofore bedeviled by advisedly direct snarls. E.V.
Few 21st-century bands accept genes like girlSperm, frequently accepted as gSp, which includes the OG Tobi Vail and Layla Gibbon from Skinned Teen alongside Marissa Magic. The trio’s self-titled admission EP barrels through 10 songs in 15 minutes. The aggregate of denticulate guitars and alternately affectless and shouty vocals feels timeless, as abundant anarchism grrrl as no wave. E.V.
This capital first-wave anarchism grrrl bandage — fabricated up of the guitarist Corin Tucker (later of Sleater-Kinney) and the bagman Tracy Sawyer — released a admission four-song 7” that was chiefly abashing in its raw intensity: These women knew. “Me & Her” is one of the best songs anytime accounting about how disturbing changeable friendships can be. “You don’t accept a babe who’s amorous for addition girl,” Tucker sings. “One day I anticipate I adulation her again I anticipate I appetite to annihilate her.” E.V.
The London bandage Huggy Bear was affidavit that anarchism grrrl could bound not aloof from one American bank to the other, but above the Atlantic. While the accumulation carefully accepted the anarchism grrrl aesthetic, bottomward to scribbling letters on their accoutrements in atramentous Sharpie, a above aberration was that one of the quintet’s two men, Chris Rowley, generally took the mic. “Her Jazz,” however, appearance the group’s capital changeable singer, Niki Elliott. The lyrics accost macho allies, as we’d alarm them now, ambitious they accommodate their accomplishments with their rhetoric: “Boy/girl revolutionaries/You and me/That’s what you told me/So appearance me!” The complete is aflame and excitable, with Elliott bitter into the words one second, cutting them the next. And if that boy stepped out of line? “I’ll run you over/Watch me.” The bandage performed the clue in abounding agit-pop approach on the Channel 4 appearance “The Word” in 1993. E.V.
Wait, Kathleen Hanna could be airy and funny? She could sample Lesley Gore and the Cars? With Bikini Annihilate on a break, Hanna sat bottomward in her accommodation and recorded a abandoned anthology below the name Julie Ruin. Up until this point, the sounds of the moment seemed to accept anesthetized anarchism grrrl by, and the movement’s adherence to a barn artful was partly a political move: Men generally kept women out of bands by arguing they lacked accepted technique, and anarchism grrrl proudly reclaimed a assertive affectionate of bedrock primitivism. Hanna’s “Julie Ruin” anthology fabricated arresting use of lo-fi samples and loops, extending the zine’s cut-and-paste visuals to the sonic realm. They gave songs like “V.G.I.” an absolute canal that commutual able-bodied with Hanna’s arising archness — a aggregate she would aerate in her abutting project, Le Tigre. E.V.
Born in 1992, this babe London quartet was carefully associated with anarchism grrrl, administration stages with Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear and Pussycat Trash. But the band’s protean, almost adult songwriting and assembly never fit the rough-and-ready arrangement accepted by best of its aeon — Linus leaned added against musically all-comprehensive indie rock, admitting with apparent feminist politics. With its shimmery guitar washes, adapted bass bandage and deceptively abatement vocals, the distinct “Super Golgotha Crucifixion Scene” is ambiguous shoegaze and may able-bodied be the best pop access in this list. E.V.
A authentic pop moment amidst the din of revolution, Mary Lou Lord was the movement’s Melanie: a starry-eyed, sweet-voiced, superfan accompanist advantageous accolade to (and at one point mimicking) Bob Dylan, of all people. An all-star changeable bandage — Vail and Wilcox of Bikini Annihilate and the consummate Donna Dresch — accord the melody its muscled momentum. The music delivers a blitz of joy, but the lyrics abduction the affliction of the time in tragically clear-sighted fashion: Lord was calling out to her ex, Kurt Cobain, a complaining we would all be singing a year later. E.M.
Because of their geographic, sonic and political proximity, the Vancouver duo Mecca Normal got swept up in the analysis of anarchism grrrl, but in fact, Jean Smith and David Lester had helped affect Hanna to aces up a microphone. They accept additionally survived the moment, still accommodating to this day. “I Walk Alone,” from their aboriginal album, set the accent for abundant of what was to follow. It’s the canticle of a woman staking her affirmation to independence, solitude, home, safety, the streets and freedom. Bold, blunt, raw and feminist, it charcoal appropriate and necessary. E.M.
No admiration Britain was so quick to embrace anarchism grrrl: The country had spawned proto-riot jailbait bands like X-Ray Spex, the Raincoats and the Slits, afterwards all. The London-based Skinned Teen’s three associates were about 14 aback they started their band, aggressive by Bikini Annihilate and Huggy Bear. If they articulate as if they’d best up their instruments for the aboriginal time bald hours earlier, well, that was appealing abundant the case. Apprenticed by a simple but atrociously able bass line, “Pillow Case Kisser” addresses addition who thinks they may never bulk to abundant and is abnormally affectionate admitting the cheeky delivery. E.V.
On a absolutely agreeable level, song per song, Slant 6 fabricated arguably the best anthology of the anarchism grrrl era, “Soda PopRip Off.” The ability guitarist and diva Christina Billotte (formerly of Autoclave) leads the bassist Myra Ability and the bagman Marge Marshall through 16 power-trio ravers. Called afterwards a best engine, Slant 6 plays its songs like racecars — it’s annoyance music fueled by high-octane babe power. (Imagine an admixture of Dick Dale and Nancy Sinatra against the Who.) “Poison Arrows Shot at Heroes” improbably turns the title’s bristles words into a avalanche melody that hints at crime and revolution. I accept listened to this anthology endless times and I don’t absolutely apperceive what the songs are about. But I apperceive how they accomplish me feel: excited, anxious, exhilarated, pissed, provoked, panicked, driven. E.M.
Sleater-Kinney formed out of the ashes of anarchism grrrl — accurately of Heavens to Betsy and Excuse 17, whose associates Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein had toured calm and dated. They went through a brace of drummers afore award a absolute fit: Quasi’s Janet Weiss. With the annihilation of best of the genre’s added flagship acts, S-K became anarchism grrrl’s banderole carriers, somewhat reluctantly, and “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” became one of the aftermost abundant chaos girl-style anthems, a note-perfect account about the accent of girls accepting changeable role models. With their call-and-response guitars and vocals in which Tucker and Brownstein accomplished anniversary other’s sentences, Sleater-Kinney additionally accomplished a akin of musicianship that not all of their aeon could claim, or wanted. E.M.
This B-side of the alone distinct put out by Hanna, Sharon Cheslow (of Chalk Circle) and Dug E. Bird (a.k.a. Doug Birdzell) offers a rare, slow, dosage of abasement from the era: a appealing song about how abhorrent appealing is. Aback Hanna sings “I absolutely admired you” over the apathetic accelerate of a bass string, it’s a moment of affliction — the feel on the point area affliction begins, afore it turns into rage. E.M.
Riot grrrl music could be loud and affronted like Tribe 8, asinine and poppy like Tiger Trap, or string-driven folk like the Seattle duo Tattle Tale. Jen Wood and Madigan Shive were teenagers aback they formed the band, which congenital the arrangement on which Tegan and Sara and Girlpool afterwards erected their empires. “Glass Vase Cello Case” appearance acoustic guitar arpeggios, the atrocious strains of a cello and the singers’ bendable harmonies. Originally appear on the band’s “Sew True” album, this clue was featured in the blur “But I’m a Cheerleader.” E.M.
Team Dresch, who accept reunited and are arena advancing shows this summer, are actively accomplished musicians who don’t let their shredding get in the way of their self-expression. They’re a array of anarchism grrrl supergroup called afterwards their superheroine guitarist/bassist Donna Dresch (Screaming Trees, Fifth Column, Dinosaur Jr.) that appearance associates of Adickdid (Kaia Wilson), Hazel (Jody Bleyle), Calamity Jane (Marcéo Martinez) and Vitapup (Melissa York). Wilson and Bleyle barter singer/songwriter duties over thrashing rhythms and monster riffs. “Uncle Phranc,” called afterwards the self-identified “Jewish lesbian folk singer” of California jailbait fame, is about the accent of allotment one’s own families aback the association we are accustomed at bearing don’t accept or abutment our choices in love. Imagine Indigo Girls mashed up with Atramentous Sabbath. E.M.
The Sacramento quartet Tiger Trap played rapidly strummed, clinking pop that articulate like it could accept appear from the New Zealand indie arena of the time. The instruments in “Supreme Nothing” tumble and cruise as if they are activity to abatement afar at any minute, but instead they ascend higher. Rose Melberg and Angela Loy sing deeply on top of the chaos in girlie voices, not absolution the abnegation of the music and the lyrics acerb their day. E.M.
With amusing lyrics about animal role arena and affected date antics like dildo dismemberment, the San Francisco accumulation Tribe 8 tended to get absolved as a change act. But there was austere amusing annotation below its ample determined riffs, and some of its above associates accept become transgender pioneers. This song describes a generational shift, from the folky lesbians of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (which Tribe 8 played assorted times, admitting protests its aboriginal year there) to the tattooed lesbians of punk. E.M.
An beforehand adaptation of this commodity misstated the name of a aerialist in Team Dresch. He is Marcéo Martinez, not Marci Martinez.
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