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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bikini Kill: Pussy Whipped

BIKINI KILL: PUSSY WHIPPED (1993)

1) Blood One; 2) Alien She; 3) Magnet; 4) Speed Heart; 5) Lil Red; 6) Tell Me So; 7) Sugar; 8) Star Bellied Boy; 9) Hamster Baby; 10) Rebel Girl; 11) Star Fish; 12) For Tammy Rae.

Since this is the band's first, loudest, and most straightforward full-fledged LP, it has become the classic point of first reference for Bikini Kill — but it is not easy to say something about it that has not already been said in the context of discussing the first EPs. In fact, Pussy Whipped plays off the idea that nobody has probably heard those EPs, because they go to the trouble of re-recor­ding ʽRebel Girlʼ — in an inferior version, I might add, with noticeably lower fidelity and with a sur­prisingly tamer guitar tone from Billy.

Of course, the band in general is anything but tame: Hannah's screeching has only got wilder, to the extent that it is nigh impossible to decipher the sound waves battering against the poor micro­phone. Maybe it's all for the better — it is hard not to cringe at all the «radical feminist» dribble that is delivered non-stop without the slightest hint of humor or irony ("your alphabet is spilled with my blood", "all you do is destroy", etc.). Then again, I would be lying if I said that every song on here qualifies as a straightforwardly dumb anthem; and I would also be lying if I said that songs like ʽStar Bellied Boyʼ or ʽSugarʼ, decrying brutal sexist attitudes of guys who treat girls like fuckmeat, had nothing to do with reality — for justice' sake, it would constitute a good balance to have ʽStar Bellied Boyʼ sitting next to, say, the Rolling Stones' ʽStupid Girlʼ as a call-and-answer thing on ridiculing stereotypes.

Anyway, the real bad news is that the music is still being treated like a bitch. All the riffs have been pilfered, as usual, from the band's favorite recordings by the Troggs, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols, so that the record rides exclusively on attitude — and the attitude never varies from song to song, depending only on whether Hannah plays it completely straight or gets a little theat­rical (on ʽSugarʼ, she spends some time mocking and parodying the «pornstar approach» towards guys, before cutting the crap and asking it straight — "why can't I ever get my sugar?"; right next to it, ʽStar Bellied Boyʼ culminates in a frantic "I can't, I can't, I can't, I can't cum!" that really shows all that dumbass guy how much of a pathetic «hero» he really is).

To those listeners who think that only the spirit matters, these forty minutes may seem like a single, super-concentrated energy punch, a nuclear warhead of an album that takes the feminist revolution in art to a whole new level. Myself, I don't see the principal progress over Patti Smith, who was a better poet, had a more professional musical backing, occasionally authored catchy songs, and was at least as ballsy as Hannah. But yeah, Bikini Kill make more noise, and all their riffs are thick, crunchy, and distorted to the max.

Oh, I forgot: the last song here breaks the trend — it is nothing less than a ballad, dedicated to Tammy Rae Carland, a lesbian artist friend of theirs who also designed the album cover. Its com­positional genius could probably be matched by a five-year old Paul McCartney, its catchiness factor drops well below zero, but the artistic statement of finishing this hyper-aggressive package with a sweet-but-not-too-sentimental confession of love (for that one person who might probably be able to finally make Kathleen cum!) cannot be beat.

As a final disclaimer, I have to say, of course, that I only feel somewhat qualified to dismiss Pussy Whipped as a «musical» non-entity — as to what concerns its power and authenticity as a social performance act, well, I guess that guys have about as much business discussing this stuff as propagating their views on abortion. In a way, it might be so that Hannah and her friends are simply doing here the kind of thing that should have been done a long time ago — that, as a girl band, they are simply «ideologically catching up» with the hardcore punk aesthetics. It is true that, even if musically Bikini Kill are not doing anything in 1993 that could not have already been done in 1983, or even in 1977-79, for that matter, there was no band quite like Bikini Kill (music, lyrics, image combined) circa 1977-79 or 1983, and that should get you a-thinkin'. Maybe if all these songs had been written in 1977, I would not be tempted to snicker at them so much.

Nevertheless, I am here primarily to opinionate on the music, not on the ideology, and from that point of view, if you come here searching for music, I have no right to recommend Pussy Whip­ped, an album whose chief target audience, so I'd think, would consist of sexually oppressed mid-to-low-class young females in need of a psychological crash course on how to defend yourself (nothing to laugh about, actually — far be it from me to deny the grave seriousness of this issue!). So remember this, ladies: next time you find yourself sexually harassed by your male chauvinist pig employer / colleague / high school «admirer», just put up ʽBlood Oneʼ or ʽStar Bellied Boyʼ as your ringtone, and watch his allegedly mighty tool wither on the spot.

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