Sure, I am a big Joe Strummer fan, but when it comes to harnessing ideals that really resonate with me; Kathleen Hanna IS my REBEL GIRL.
Back when I was 16 years old, the riot grrrl movement took a hold of me like punk rock never could. (Yes, even The Clash- SHOCK HORROR) I picked up a bass guitar and attempted to learn the cords of some of my favourite Bikini Kill songs. Of course, I never stuck with it and my dreams of starting my own all grrrl punk rock band were crushed.
Even though I gave up in trying to be in a band, I have always had the riot grrrl mentally; help those that need help, be an activist, be an advocate, and when you get knocked down by condescending, patronizing individuals of the other sex; you dust yourself off, pick yourself up and always stand up for yourself, no matter what.
Some will argue that women and women’s views in punk has always happened with bands such as Crass, The Plasmatics, X-Ray Spex, Patti Smith, Lene Lovich, Lidya Lunch – There are a few more but there was nothing like the Riot Grrrl movement in the 1990’s. The Riot Grrrl movement was not just about female aggressive fronted or all female bands.
The movement was also about bringing a great awareness to social issues that affected women, with a very inspiring DIY punk mentality through art, zines, activism, as well as music.
Back in the 90’s the grunge movement was a big thing, and with bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, STP, Soundgarden – There really wasn’t a better time for there to be finally a large enough movement of activism for women to call their own. To this day, there are some great female bands that are still trying to keep that momentum alive. (Stay tuned for a future EaTKS all grrrl show and I will tell you all about them)
But this isn’t just about the Riot Grrrl movement, (but I hope after this you will Google the shit out of it and take a look at what you might have missed out on) this is about the woman who shy’s away from taking the credit of creating one of the most amazing shit storms that still inspires woman today.
If you are just discovering the awesomeness of Kathleen Hanna for the first time or if you want to take a trip down memory lane, here’s some highlights of some of the great music that she created.
So back in the 1990’s Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, Kathi Wilcox and Billy Karren started the hardcore punk rock influence, heavy guitar driven, bass heavy grinding in your mother f*in face punk rock with a serious message.
One of their biggest known hits is Rebel Girl – and that’s a great tune; but THIS, this was one, was their call to action to women. Nothing is as in your face as this track.
Bikini Kill – Double Dare Ya
This originally, was from their self released album Revolution Girl Style Now! which was on cassette. The indie label Kill Rock Stars re-released their first two records on CD in 1994. Funnily enough, Double Dare Ya is the first track of the CD version of their first two records.
Bikini Kill was still comparatively, a very underground band in based on the fact the amount of swearing and lyrical content – it was just not going get mainstream airplay. However, some other riot grrrl type bands did, such as L7, Sleater- Kinney, to name a few made an impact on the mainstream.
(They are also under an umbrella of other sub genres – I am totally digressing at this point).
Some folks might say that Bikini Kill lost their edge in order to get more airplay and other folks might say that they became more refined/ experienced with their last album Reject All America. (They had another album in between called Pussy Whipped which you could say, bridged or combined the ideas of music between the two)
Reject All America was perhaps less aggressive with the musical arrangements. (Does punk have musical arrangements?) . Lyrically, this album still pulled serious punches in regards to the feminist views. Albeit subtle, but it was still there.
Here’s Jet Ski from the Reject All America
(I’ll let you decide if they lost their edge)
Kathleen Hanna took a break from Bikini Kill and put out this “solo” record. This was quite the departure from the gritty guitars, loud in your face lyrics and replaced with drum machines, synth sounds and a more melodic voice. I have to say, that this album went under the radar of even some big Bikini Kill fans, not because it’s not a great album – it’s a very big departure from what the Bikini Kills’ sound was. But then again, this wasn’t, Bikini Kill.
Julie Ruin – Stay Monkey
Kathleen Hanna began collaborating with some friends to make a live “art” version of Julie Ruin which became the band Le Tigre. This was described as an “Electroclash/Dance Punk band” – terms on the interwebs folks don’t be judging me.
This was a very pop synthesizing drum bass outfit. When I first heard it, when it exploded all over the mainstream radio and the dance clubs; I have to say I was angry, and disappointed.
I was angry that people that were listening to this thought of her as something new.
I heard comments like, “Wow, this band is like, an overnight success.” In my head I was thinking, “You don’t have the first clue how awesome this front woman is and what she created.”
I felt that Kathleen abandoned her roots and sold out to become current. To my defense – being young; can that be a defense for being an ass? – I was in my twenties and I was pretty ignorant about bands morphing into or exploring other genres. Mainly because to me, being a Clash fan, I understood that you could incorporate genres without feeling that you had to change bands or create a new album to do so. So it was a pretty tough sell, to say the least.
I am not a hater of synth bands, don’t get it twisted here folks. I like quite a few synth bands.
After I got over my dumbass self I realized that this was a pretty catchy tune.
Le Tigre – Deceptacon
After a few years of being on hiatus for many reasons, Kathleen came back with a vengeance. In 2010, Kathleen, resurrected the similar sound of Julie Ruin but renaming it The Julie Ruin. There is a distinction between the 1997 Julie Ruin and new band The Julie Ruin. – Don’t confuse them folks.
The Julie Ruin’s new album came out Sept 2013, and in my opinion it’s brilliant. This album has a balance of the gritty guitars and shouty in your face lyrics that you once loved from Bikini Kill and a mish mash of the drum machine synth poppy tune from Julie Ruin and Le Tigre. Even though I am a very big fan of Bikini, I love that there is a great variety of sounds in this album. This album has something for everyone.
The Julie Ruin Oh Come On
This obviously isn’t enough of a sell on how awesome this woman is. This is just an old riot grrrl fan getting a chance to write about some of her music. So I encourage you to take your fingers to the Google search and check out more.
One last thing for you lovely readers, there’s finally a documentary called “The Punk Singer” that gives you all that you really need to know.
Check out the trailer and go support independent music, art, and movies.