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Archive for the ‘Riot Grrrl’ Category

[POSTPONED: May 13, 2020] Bikini Kill / Alice Bag [moved to August 26 & 27]

indexWhen Bikini Kill did their shirt reunion tour a couple years ago, tickets sold out in like ten seconds.  When they announced this follow up tour I grabbed a ticket immediately.  As far as I can tell it still hadn’t sold out when it was postponed (which is a surprise, I think).

Bikini Kill are foundation for the Riot Grrl movement although I was not a huge fan of them per se.  I have their records appreciate them for what they did, but they weren’t my favorite,

Nevertheless, this opportunity to see them live sounded like a great time.

Alice Bag has been cropping up in my periphery for quite some time although I realized I didn’t know much about her.  Alicia Armendariz was a co-founder and singer of the 70s punk band The Bags.  After they broke up, she was in about a half dozen other bands, although none of them released more than some singles.  She finally put out a solo album in 2016.

Her album(s) since have gotten strong reviews and it would be excellent to see this feminist icon in action.

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SOUNDTRACK: SKATING POLLY featuring LOUISE POST & NINA GORDON OF VERUCA SALT-New Trick EP (2017).

So Kelli (17) and Peyton (21) have added their brother Kurtis (20) on drums which allows the grrrls to focus on guitars and bass.  This EP, as the name states, was co-written with Louise and Nina of Veruca Salt

“Louder in Outer Space” is the catchiest thing they’ve done by far.  The harmonies are great and the chorus (and even the verse) has the clear impact of Veruca Salt.  The co-songwriting has upped their game in a number of ways too with interesting vocal harmonies.

“Hail Mary” has a real Nirvana feel in the chord choices and in Kelli’s vocal delivery.  The addition of Peyton’s backing vocals in the chorus are a wonderful detail.

There’s a simple bass and drum set up on “Black Sky.”  But when it gets going, it’s the most Veruca Salt of the three songs. It’s even more so when the song pauses and someone (even their voices intertwine) sings “the monster of a sky.”  Then end the song with the following section, the way the vocals (all four of them, I assume) swirl around is really great.  It’s such a terrifically catchy song.  And a dynamite EP.

[READ: December 17, 2017] “Lynch Law”

This story was constructed around what I assumed was a fabricated title but which is very much real: Mounted Police Life in Canada, A Record of Thirty-One Years’ Service by Superintendent Richard Burton Deane (you can see the whole book here).  I was willing to accept the “truth” of the book even if it was made up, but knowing that it was real makes this a more interesting (but not more enjoyable) story.

Basically what we have is Deane’s official transcript of events and then a woman’s explanation of the story from her point of view.

The story begins with quotes from the manuscript: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SKATING POLLY-Fuzz Steilacoom (2014).

“Ugly pop” is how Skating Polly describes their music.  And it’s a pretty good descriptor.  Their music is loud and brash and the two members can both sing pretty and scream loudly.

Both Kelli Mayo & Peyton Bighorse play drums and guitar and piano and they alternate for different songs.  Kelli’s instrument is more of a bassitar–a bass with just a couple of strings on it.

How on earth do they make such a big sound with such limited equipment?  And how do they write such great songs?

I guess at this point it’s worth mentioning that Kelli and Peyton are stepsisters and, when they made this album in 2014, Kelli was 14 and Peyton was all of 19.  How, then do they make music that sounds like a perfect continuation of the riot grrrl 90s?  Catchy, with lot of distortion and a whole lot of pogoing.

The other fascinating thing about these songs is that they are short.  You’d assume that fast punky songs–with only two instruments and no guitar solos!–would barely clock in at 3 minutes.  But these songs are almost all 3 and a half, some pushing four minutes.

“Alabama Movies” has a cool staggered riff with a high bass note that stands out in a really cool way. The song is smooth and rocking until the chorus where Kelli lets her shriek flag shine and the song totally rocks.  “Scummy Summer” has a very different sound–more tinny and guitar-based–including a moment mid-song when all of the fuzz drops out and it’s just a clean guitar and simple drums.  I’m assuming that this is a Peyton song.  They trade-off styles like this throughout the album–some heavier, some lighter, but pretty consistently with a lot of distortion.

“Ugly” really shows off what they can do.  Opening with some acoustic guitar and whispered vocals, the rest of the song follows a rumbling bass line and thumping drums:

I wear my face just like my skin
Dried up, paint-free, and authentic
I let my hair just soak up grease
I brush it with my fingers, see?

and then this more disturbing third section, in which they don’t hold back:

Suzy went to school this morning
Suzy went to class this morning
Suzy was loudly droning
Suzy told the class her story
You can look in the mirror
Might not like what you see
You can try to change it
But you’ll always be ugly
And you’ll always be nothing

They mix up some of their style even more with songs like “Break Your High” which is almost fast folk.   This one has a waltz beat and acoustic guitars.  The rest of the album plays with these dynamics in interesting ways.

They sisters are very impressive with their tightness-t-hey stop on a beat and change styles mid-song as easily.

I’m a little underwhelmed by the production of the record.  Specifically the drums, which sound like they are made of cardboard.  The guitars (especially Kelli’s bass heavy one) sound great though.

The final song, “A Little Late” throws everything out the window and shows a totally different side of the band.   It’s a five-minute piano song with the lyrics sung in a round–both Kelli and Peyton singing over and over each other.  It’s really interesting and quite catchy. the way the song slowly builds, adding new instruments.  There’s a lot of components to the song, but I especially like:

Chase away the thoughts that make you hate
‘Cause hate does not create
And hate at best will just keep you a little late, a little late

This was their third album.  I have yet to hear their earlier two, but their follow-up was pretty outstanding.

[READ: October 17, 2017] Brave

Tabitha chose to read this book because she really liked Awkward.  It takes place in the same universe, and I love that the characters from Awkward make a cameo.

Peppi (Penelope) is back in this story but she is a very minor character.  Indeed, the book says that there will be more books set in Berrybrook Middle School presumably with many different characters in the lead.

This story follows Jensen, an overweight, socially awkward, not-terribly-bright boy who has anxieties but generally doesn’t feel that he is being picked on (he is).

Peppi is part of the art club and that’s where Jensen finds some friends, too. (more…)

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carrieSOUNDTRACK: CATE LE BON-Tiny Desk Concert #337 (February 18, 2014).

cateCate Le Bon has a very interesting style of singing–it reminds me of Grace Slick in her enunciation, but also like someone whose speaking accent is very strong and is somewhat masked by her singing (like the way she sings “reason” as “ree-sun” as opposed to “reezun”).

The blurb explains that her “phrasing is completely tied to her Welsh dialect — in fact, her first record was in Welsh…. The enunciation is completely tied to the loneliness and the questioning.”

 For this concert it is just her and her fellow guitarist H. Hawkline (both wearing super cozy sweaters).  They share the guitar licks very nicely–it’s not always clear who is playing what–with her sometimes finishing his lines (I believe).

“Are You With Me Now?” has a very catchy chorus (with an “ah ha ha ha ha” part that makes it sound like an olde English ballad).

“No God” plays with very simple guitar lines (chords played very high on the neck of her guitar and a simple accompanying riff).  Hawkline plays keys (and sings some great falsetto backing vocals) to flesh out this song.  Everything is so clean you can hear each note from the guitar and her voice.

“Duke” opens with some interesting slightly off sounding from Cate while Hawkline plays a simple chord pattern (his fingers are enormous, by the way).  Hawkline’s falsetto is almost as engaging as the vocal lines that match the guitar line which Cate plays.  And when she says “I’ll see you here” in that unexpected pronunciation, it’s totally captivating.

I like Le Bon a lot and want to hear what she wounds like on record.

[READ: May 18, 2016] Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

After finishing Bob Boilen’s book and thinking about how I don’t really love music-based books, I immediately read Carrie Brownstein’s book.  Carrie Brownstein is one of the two guitarists in Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag.  She is also one of the leads (writer and actor) on Portlandia.  And she wrote for NPR for a while, too.  Basically, Carrie is the shit.

One thing I took away from this book is that I’ve read a few musician memoirs (Mötley Crüe and Marilyn Manson to name a few) and this is the first one I’ve read that was filled with so much sadness.  Not “I was stoned and regret sleeping with that person with an STD sadness,” but like, real family problems and even a dead pet.  And, as Carrie herself jokes, her stories of being on tour and ending up in the hospital are not based on drugs or other debauchery, but on anxiety and even worse, shingles.

The beginning of the book starts in 2006, around the initial break up (hiatus) of Sleater-Kinney.  Carrie is in pain–emotional and physical–and she can’t take much more.  She starts punching herself hard in the face. (more…)

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criminalsSOUNDTRACK: JOANNA GRUESOME-Weird Sister (2013).

joanna  I love this short rocking record from this Welsh band whose name is presumably a pun on harpist Joanna Newsome (a fairly obscure joke, no doubt).  In fact I really can’t stop listening to their blend of smooth noise and pretty/screamy vocals .  Lead singer Alanna McArdle has several distinct styles of singing, from pretty and sweet to screamed and scary.  She’s accompanied by a stellar lineup of guys who can do punk and a lot more: drummer Dave Gruesome and  guitarists George and Owen Gruesome (also vocals).

The album reminds me of My Bloody Valentine with splash of riot grrl and occasional old school punk thrown in.  There are elements of pure MBV shoegaze (and even of MBV noisy distortion), but without the meticulous layering that Kevin Shields spent years of his life mastering–this album feels largely spontaneous..

“Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers” opens with a descending guitar riff, switches to some shoegazey type verses and then jumps into some loud screamed choruses, before starting the whole thing over again.  I love the dissonance at the beginning of “Sugarcrush” and how it morphs into a strangely catchy song midway through. And then it shifts back into raw dissonance.  I also get a sense of Cocteau Twins in the vocals on “Madison” (and other songs).  The opening riff is pure dissonance but the verse is just bliss (the “head on the door line of course makes me think of The Cure even though they don’t sound like them at all).

“Wussy Void” slows things down with some actual individual notes and audible lyrics (I’m told the lyrics are very feminist, but I honestly can’t hear too many of them–which isn’t really a shame because her voice is perfect for this band and just knowing that she’s singing about meaningful things is enough of a bonus.

“Lemonade Grrl” starts shoegazey but quickly speeds up with some pummeling drums behind her delicate voice.  “Secret Surprise” is probably the “prettiest” song of the bunch–the dissonance is at a minimum, and yet it is still noisy and punky.  “Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still in Love With Me?” is the sweetest song on the album, with a pleasant guitar riff and a catchy and understandable chorus–until the raging blast of punk at the end.

At 4 minutes, “Candy” is the longest song on the disc.  It slows things down and has a fairly conventional structure.  “Graveyard” starts as a punk blast but gets softer for the chorus.  And the album closer “Satan” belies its name and the album by opening delicately and having the first notices of a large bass sound and then after 2 minutes it abruptly ends.

I really love this record (all 28 minutes of it).  And I can’t wait for more.  I just found out that they have a few singles and E.P.s streaming on their bandcamp site.  Most of these recordings are earlier, rawer version of songs on the album.

[READ: October 19, 2014] Sex Criminals

This intriguingly titled comic is intended for mature readers (as you might expect).  But before we get to the criminal aspect of the story, we’ll back up to meet the characters.

First there is Suzie.  Her mostly amusing story begins with a pretty awful tragedy. A man killed Suzie’s father when she was a little girl (the story promises that things will get funnier as we learn her story). This all ties into the big banks that she rails against later, but I’m not exactly sure that this back story is even necessary (yet).

But this incident makes young Suzie delve deeper into herself.  And when she discovers what kind of pleasure can be had by herself she discovers something…peculiar.  It seems that whenever she climaxes she enters into what she calls The Quiet.  In a nutshell, everything around her stops, but she is able to move–this later led to some fairly awkward moments with guys.  She tried to talk to girls at school about this–of course they looked at her like she was crazy. Although one girl proceeds to show her about a dozen sex positions (by drawing them on the bathroom wall–this may be the funniest thing in the whole book as they are so outrageous yet so cartoony, and I’ve not heard of half of them).

She tries talking to her doctor–he basically tells her that her husband will help her when she’s older.  And then she tries her mother who is still grieving about Suzie’s dad.  So, three strikes, she’s out.

So, how does a plot develop out of this? (more…)

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jun9SOUNDTRACK: BIKINI KILL-Revolution Girl Style Now (1991).

rvolBikini Kill was one of the most memorable bands from the Riot Grrrl movement.  And frankly, twenty years on, these song still sound incendiary–no one has picked up the torch that bands like this lit in the 90s.

Bikini Kill were confrontational–Kathleen Hannah took no shit, and sang however she felt–sometimes screaming, sometime howling, sometimes singing right on key.   But the most important thing about Bikini Kill was their lyrics–they addressed women’s issues in ways that few bands dared to before (or even since).  As in the title “Suck My Left One.”  Or the premise of “Carnival,” a song about 16 year old girls giving carnies head to go on rides.

While it’s not always clear what the lyrics are, occasional lines are crystal clear. “Daddy’s l’il girl don’t wanna be his whore no more.”  “As a woman I was taught to always be hungry / Now women are well acquainted with thirst”  Or the addressed-to-all-girlfriends, “Double Dare Ya”

Hey girlfriend
I got a proposition goes something like this:
Dare ya to do what you want
Dare ya to be who you will
Dare ya to cry right outloud

Their music, especially on this early self released tape was raw and edgy, abrasive and confrontational.  And yet at the same time they didn’t completely shy away from melody, as this album’s “Feels Blind” has a simple but catchy melody.

[READ: June 17, 2014] “TV”

This year’s Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker was subtitled Love Stories.  In addition to the two graphic stories, we have a series of five personal essays which fall under the heading of “My Old Flame.”  I liked that all five writers have slight variations in how they deal with this topic.

Miranda July’s take on My Old Flame is set back when she was living in Portland. While her story isn’t exactly happy (how many stories about old flames ever are?), this particular old flame had a major impact on her life.

July noticed that there were two women who were always walking together and who loved together.  She was intrigued by them and their cool house and eventually made friends with them.  She was especially interested in the person called TV.  “She, if she was a she, was every boy from every childhood book.”  July had tried to date boys like that but they often turned out to be assholes. But TV had those boyish qualities and a girl’s point of view. (more…)

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