Keep calm and riot grrrl on
The mother band of the feminist movement reissue debut LP, this time cleaner and with bonus tracks.
The riot grrrl OGs Bikini Kill have crashed the music scene with a reissuing of their iconic debut album “Revolution Girl Style Now” on Sept. 22. This is the first time the LP has been released on CD, on vinyl and online. As an added bonus, it features three previously unreleased songs.
The original tape was a 1991 self-released demo that quickly brought the alternative punks to fame. It helped spawn a counter-culture feminist movement that promoted “feminist community via the punk scene,” according to the Bikini Kill website. The band sought this community through seemingly endless touring, networking and publishing independent feminist fanzines.
With striking lyrics such as, “Daddy’s little girl don’t wanna be his little whore no more!” and “I dare ya to be who you want!” the band unabashedly became a leading voice against the patriarchy. Their signature noisy, garage-band enthusiasm is apparent on the original demo. Lead vocalist Kathleen Hanna’s uninhibited rage melds into a cacophony of guitars and bass. The drums pound out like arrhythmia on steroids.
The new release, though, sounds much cleaner. Guy Picciotto, former lead for the hardcore/punk band Fugazi, and John Golden mixed and mastered the LP, respectively. The result is a stripped-down string of tracks that bring the essentials of the album to the forefront. Foiling the original static and noise is the throbbing, pulsating bassline and mellow(er) guitars. The lyrics are as stinging as ever and come out more clearly. Hanna’s voice sounds raw and guttural, like a caged animal ferociously growling.
The reissue keeps the gritty notes and feminist angst, but adds more edge by filtering out the extra fracas. The original feels like pure unadulterated energy, but the extra noise, while always good for estrogen-induced powerhouse ass-kicking, adds a lot of unnecessary static that shields listeners from getting personal with the band. The remastered version feels more like a personal attack. The audience can feel Hanna’s words like an adrenaline rush rather than losing them in a sea of commotion.
This is a marvelous way to downplay the music enough so that “Ocean Song,” “Just Once,” and “Playground,” the previously unheard songs, fit in with the rest of the album. These tracks, albeit still raging, feel a little more laid-back and hollow than the rest of the LP, in a vein similar to Nirvana. “Ocean Song” is a bit lethargic and subdued. “Just Once” is the spikiest of the three, with Hanna snarling tempestuously, “You can’t kill me ‘cause I’m already dead!” Although the songs feel a little lacking in comparison to the rest of the album, they definitely do not drag it down. If anything they add a little more dimension to the LP by showing a grungier side of the band.
“Revolution Girl Style Now” is a link in a chain of reissues the band is currently undertaking. In 2012 they re-released “Bikini Kill” and followed it in 2014 with an extended version of “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah.” Also on the list is the soundtrack to “The Punk Singer,” a documentary following Kathleen Hanna’s career, which is scheduled for release Oct. 13.