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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Bikini Kill: The Singles

BIKINI KILL: THE SINGLES (1998)

1) New Radio; 2) Rebel Girl; 3) In Accordance To Natural Law; 4) Strawberry Julius; 5) Anti-Pleasure Dissertation; 6) Rah! Rah! Replica; 7) I Like Fucking; 8) I Hate Danger; 9) Demirep.

For the sake of extra accuracy, I suppose this very short compilation, consisting of several A- and B-sides, as well as a four-song EP from 1995, deserves a brief mention. ʽRebel Girlʼ has already been discussed several times above, and without that song the entire compilation is around 17 minutes long — nevertheless, it still contains songs that are abso­lutely essential for any fan of the band.

In a way, ʽNew Radioʼ, the original A-side of ʽRebel Girlʼ, is much more ferocious and disturbing — not only does it feature the scariest Kathleen Hanna screeching on record (she almost literally spews her lungs out in little pieces), but its lyrics, suggesting something uncomfortable, unspea­kable, and almost certainly illegal, are a very far cry from the anthemic swagger of ʽRebel Girlʼ that sounds dang near comical in comparison.

The EP Anti-Pleasure Dissertation, released in 1995, already shows the beginning of the tran­sition to the «softer» sounds of Reject All American — the title track has certain melodic traces both in the guitar playing and in the singing, although the ideology remains the same (as usual, the song is directed against the sterotypical macho boyfriend looking for sexual conquests — "did you win that race, did you score that point?.."). But even sad stories like that do not prevent Hanna from proclaiming that ʽI Like Fuckingʼ — "I believe in the radical possibilities of plea­sure, babe!", she states at the end of the song (if you can call it a song, that is).

Musically, the best song is probably ʽI Hate Dangerʼ; its melody sounds like a slightly de-synco­pated variation on AC/DC's ʽDirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheapʼ, but that particular dangerous, grow­ling sound suits Bikini Kill to a tee — in a different world, I could easily see them as the female equivalent of AC/DC, counterattacking that band's aggressive machismo with their equally fiery brand of aggressive feminism (now if only they learned how to play those instruments...). On the other hand, their recording of the ʽMary Macʼ clapping game at the beginning of ʽDemiRepʼ is a rather silly novelty whose symbolism I am not able to decode, probably because there isn't any, they just felt like letting out ther inner child for a while.

To conclude these reviews, I just want to state that, although I am not and will never be a big fan of Bikini Kill, I do think that, had they managed to stay together, there were some actual chances of their gradual evolution into a band that might be taken seriously even outside of ideologically charged discussions. Fire and passion in art always deserve respect, regardless of whether they are used to express radical social ideology or not, and all they needed to learn was how to control and direct that fire — something that they had almost mastered by the time of ʽI Hate Dangerʼ and Reject All American. But then, of course, it became clear that the «Bikini Kill» brand was all about ideology first and musical impression second, so that any musical growth was a direct mortal threat to the band's existence. Too bad about that. But you can always check out Hanna in Le Tigre, her subsequent and much more «musical» project in the «electroclash» genre, rather naturally evolved from Bikini Kill and certainly easier on the ears of the average music lover — the wilder they start, the softer they get, eventually.

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