review: ‘We’re Not Ovaryacting’ by The Menstrual Cramps

by kris smith

We’re Not Ovaryacting by The Menstrual Cramps (LP, Feb 2017)The debut album ‘We’re Not Ovaryacting’ from London-via-Bristol grrrl band The Menstrual Cramps is also their first release, although half the songs have seen previews on youtube and soundcloud. Ten snappy, catchy-as-fuck demos, and all over in twenty-odd minutes, the band present a fairly no-frills approach to recording and promotion, which might be logistic-economic or might simply reflect an unpretentious attitude to their art: write a song, record it, put it out there, move on. Given that the band has been active for less than ten months, we confidently expect a second album by the end of 2017.There certainly won’t be a shortage of material, because The Menstrual Cramps write songs about problems that show no signs of going away. Part of a new wave of riot grrrl-referencing groups (Peach ClubDream NailsFight Rosa Fight!) as well as like-minded bands raising political issues either angrily or sardonically (Petrol GirlsThe Baby Seals), the Menstruals play stripped-down lo-fi feminist punk on what sometimes sound like heavily-distorted acoustic guitars. Fronted by Emilia, backed by Cooper and Robyn, and currently seeking a female drummer, the band’s sound – despite what seems on this recording to be a digital drum-track – vaguely recalls the clatter of late 70s/early 80s DIY and anarcho-punk (early MekonsChumbawambaHagar the Womb) without really sounding like anyone of the kind – and if those references seem too anciently obscure for a group in their early 20s that may be so, but track 6 here, the excellently-titled entreaty ‘Cull The Tories’, manages to dig up an even earlier reference to “Maggie Thatcher the milk snatcher”, which actually dates back to 1971!

Elsewhere on the album ‘This Isn’t What You Expected’ tackles domestic politics; ‘Lying Cheatin’ Fucking Scumbag’ is a swearier-Tuts style synopsis of a bad date; ‘Make Girls Feel Good’ addresses body positivity; and ‘Frack Off’ is partly self-explanatory but deals with wider green topics too. There are no po-faced rants here, just a self-aware selection of broadsides complete with an illiberal amount of swearing and humour, particularly in the case of ‘Hashtag Sad Penis’ with its laugh-out-loud lyrics.

Other album highlights include ‘Mansplain’, which deals with internet trolls, and like The Wimmins Institute‘s similarly-titled ‘Mansplaining‘ and GUTTFULL’s ‘Keyboard Warrior‘ is a direct response to real life discourse – in this case the reaction to the Menstruals’ first video ‘My Bush Ain’t Ur Business‘ which saw it banned by Youtube. Better still is ‘Another Sesh’ which has the album’s best lyric and demonstrates once again the band’s charming gift for earworming melody and harmony present throughout this album, raising it above punk-by-numbers and ensuring that even the simplest of songs here have a memorable and irresistible singalong quality. Album closer is ‘JC Our Saviour’, a rare paean to Jeremy Corbyn’s ongoing stance against the politics of Austerity.

As with any grrrl band of note, from Slits to Bikini Kill to Tuts, we could speculate where the Menstrual Cramps get their exact style and influences from or we can instead accept the result as the natural sound of a new group of young, angry musicians playing together in a room, right here and now. In this way, punk regenerates itself. Menstrual Cramps have produced a supremely listenable and politically-engaged debut album – and our hunch is that they have barely even begun.

‘We’re Not Ovaryacting’ is out now on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. 

Witness The Menstrual Cramps playing live for the FIRST TIME on 8 March!

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