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This year sees the welcome return of a subgenre of alternative music which for some is painfully missed, the incendiary Riot Grrrl movement. This subculture rose up in the guise of alternative rock, it is a sound played in the style of Punk, but managing to combine politics and third-wave feminist ideals aggressively charged within a minimalist delivery.
It sprang to life in the early nineties, and was, as the name suggests predominantly female driven. Featuring bands such as L7, Bratmobile and Bikini Kill, each spearheaded the spectacular sounds. By the close of the century a lot of those bands began to fizzle out. Until this year which sees L7 return with a new album, Scatter The Rats, their first new music in twenty-years. Bikini Kill opened the year by announcing a selection of tour dates. And, Sleater-Kinney, the all-girl trio has returned with new music, and tour dates across Europe.
However, years before Riot Grrrl exploded, that same anarchic spirit had already been cast. In the early eighties, before any movement started, there was a selection of women who stood their ground on a male dominated landscape. Either on their own, or as a part of a band, these women stood up and screamed the angst from their very soul. With no feminist agenda or any submergence in a cultural movement, they cleared the runaway of the music industry for the sound of the Riot Grrrl movement to land, through both influence and ideals. They were rock musicians, both fearless and powerful, never seeking a genre tag, at times dismissing the Riot Grrrl identity, but the fact remains they all collectively stoked the fires. Following are only some of the most important women in alternative rock, each of whom are legendary in their own right, and continue broadcasting their unique brand of raw intense music.
The fiery daughter of Atlanta, Georgia first came to prominence in 1981 with the Rhode Island based Throwing Muses. A collision of punk and folk became the fusion of the sound, with the haunting voice of Hersh leading the charge, never feminist bound but explosive nonetheless. From their 1986 self-titled debut, the Muses released a string of acclaimed albums, including House Tornado (1988) and the top thirty UK release The Real Ramona (1991). Kristin Hersh embarked on a solo career in 1994, kicking off with Hips and Makers which hit number #7 on the UK charts. Even now Kristin Hersh releases albums of arcane splendor, including Crooked and her latest Possible Dust Clouds. Further news however, as a reformation of Throwing Muses is happening with a string of shows this summer including the Pasadena Daydream Festival (August 31st). Here they will share the stage with The Cure, The Pixies and Deftones. Proving even in the 21st century, the world still craves the music of Kristin Hersh.
Vanessa Briscoe Hay
Another lady from Georgia, this time from Athens, Vanessa Briscoe Hay has performed an atomic brand of music since 1979. Starting with one of the original alternative rock bands Pylon.
Between 1980 and 1983, Pylon released two incendiary albums of post-punk magnificence, Gyrate and Chomp. Breaking up shortly after the latter, taking a hiatus of six years before reforming and touring with R.E.M. More breakups followed until 2014 when Hay formed Pylon Reenactment Society, releasing new material and touring, whilst in 2016 Paste Magazine named Vanessa Briscoe Hay in a poll of the top 25 frontwomen of all time. Last year PRS released “The Messenger” and announced tour dates this summer across Europe, the name Vanessa Briscoe Hay refuses to be forgotten in the spectrum of modern music, even forty-years after her first incarnation.
Starting her music career as bassist and backing vocalist with the Pixies, Kim Deal has spent over three decades sculpting a collection of hard-hitting material. Both as a part of the Pixies, and her own band The Breeders with Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses). The Breeders formed in 1989 following the Pixies classic Doolittle, and the short hiatus between that and Bossanova. The Breeders first release Pod_(1990) is now regarded as a milestone in nineties alternative rock, although come 1991 following the fractious recording of _Trompe le Monde, the Pixies stumbled on for two more years before splitting until 2004. Within that time more new albums along with projects such as The Amps provided Deal with the foundations to craft her angst, after splitting for good from the rejuvenated Pixies, the Breeders have continued to release new material including 2018’s acclaimed All Nerve.
The female force of Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon, along with then partner Thurston Moore formed the band in New York City In 1981. Although they released four albums of atomic quality in the first half of the eighties, it was not until 1988’s Daydream Nation that the band earned widespread acclaim. It was Gordon and Moore’s separation after twenty-seven years of marriage that called time on Sonic Youth, highlighted in her fitting memoir, Girl In A Band. But now Gordon has come into the news again as she tours her art shows known as She bites her tender mind. Kim Gordon has always crossed the boundaries of music, visual art and performance, now she is focusing her attention of her life experiences into forms of painting, glitter installations and the Noise Painting series, depicting the names of experimental and noise groups. Kim Gordon is overwhelmingly teaching lessons to up and coming bands, how there is always more than one direction or muse for your creativity.
There is no denying the impact Kat Bjelland has had on the music landscape of the nineties. The singer, vocalist and songwriter formed her first band, the short-lived Pagan Babies, with future Hole frontwoman Courtney Love. After the band’s dissolution, Bjelland’s next move was the one which garnered the most success, in the all female unit Babes In Toyland. Consisting of with Lori Barbero (drums), and Michelle Leon (bass) the trio embarked on a successful run of albums. Beginning with Spanking Machine (1990), the critically successful Fontanelle (1992) and finally Nemesisters (1995), the last new material before the band became inactive. Although, Bjelland did go on to form Katastrophy Wife with her then husband Glen Mattson, this project again was short-lived. In 2007, she spoke publicly about her diagnosed schizoaffective disorder, which she fearlessly battled to reform Babes In Toyland as a touring outfit, overcoming the odds for the sake of art.
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