In the year-and-a-bit that the current line-up of Brighton duo ARXX has been together, Hannah Pidduck and Clara Townsend have forged a unit of two that plays with the impact of ten, and evolved from highly impressive to completely unassailable as a musical force. There are few bands out there to match them at the moment and – with apologies to all other groups whose work I admire – none to beat them.
Singer-guitarist Hannah has written several fine songs recently that have quickly and comfortably integrated into the ARXX setlist. They haven’t actually released any new music since their superb 2018 ‘Daughters Of Daughters’ EP, however, so any new recording activity is more than welcome. The current ARXX set closer ‘Iron Lung’ is the first of two brand new singles that the duo plans to unleash over the next few months. It’s one of Hannah’s strongest lyrical offerings to date, a song of relationship disintegration built on a monumentally tough stop-time funk-rock riff that will stay in your mind long after the song’s 3 minutes and 1 second are up. Slightly slower on record than it is when played live, but still full of the unbridled aggression that has quickly made it a new favourite among us ARXX devotees.
The singular use of the ‘F’ word may unfortunately work
against it at radio, but all grown up people will recognise it as being a
crucial part of Hannah’s by turns simmering and scalding performance. While her writing is often downbeat, her
passionate, committed vocals are fully accessible and make hers one of the
finest rock voices since Ann Wilson of the group Heart first came to prominence
in the 70s. Of course ARXX is not a
one-woman show, and drummer Clara is, for my money, the best kit basher out
there today, bar none. There isn’t
anyone better equipped to drive Hannah’s words and music. Any and every band
would be thrilled to have Clara Townsend anchoring their sound.
There will be more ARXX gigs coming up soon, including The Engine Rooms in London on July 27th and a most welcome appearance at this September’s LOUD WOMEN Fest. If you have not seen Hannah and Clara before, theirs is a set you will not want to miss. And if you have – well, you won’t need me to tell you that, will you?
‘Iron Lung’ is available now, via all your favourite streaming sources.
Jelly Cleaver is a firm favourite here at LOUD WOMEN HQ. An absurdly talented musician and songwriter, she’s also got lovability in spades – she’s friendly and self-effacing despite being A-list beautiful and having the voice of an angel (an angel who can also do loads of really clever stuff with a guitar). And she’s got bags of proper punkrock scene integrity – you’re as likely to see her working the door of a LOUD WOMEN gig as playing on stage*. But Jelly’s music isn’t punkrock, per se. Hold on to your hats: Jelly plays jazz.
There, I said it. Jelly plays jazz, and I really, really like it.
My simple punkrock ears aren’t accustomed to such complex sounds, so I asked music student and jazz musician MollyRider to give me her opinion of the album, and she said:
This album brings out the personal and political surroundings in every listener with drama and flair. The clever choices made create comfortable but engrossing tracks with full sounds and talent interweaved throughout. Its definitely one to give a listen if you’re a bit wary of the jazz scene – not too intense and never boring!”
A few stand-out tracks for me …
‘Ego’ crunches through a couple of minutes of rock guitar, before shimmering through the jazz curtain to deliver the by now more familiar sequences of complex melody, vocal harmony, and a squillion layers of instruments.
‘Angela’ appears through a 1970s haze of rhodes organ, muted brass and wahwah guitar, before crashing us up-to-date with a big fat distorted guitar solo.
With ‘Yarls Wood’ Jelly shows her feminist activist credentials, with an accompanying video of her own footage taken at protests at the racist UK detention centre.
The album has been a huge labour of love for Jelly, and it shows. She’s collaborated with a whole heap of musicians on the London jazz scene, met via Tomorrow’s Warriors, including RoellaOloro, IsobellaBurnam, LoucinMoskofian, LorenzOkeno–Osengor and KaidiAkinnibi. It also features spoken word from activists like Renny (Renny’s Poem) who was a hunger striker at Yarl’s Wood detention centre.
La Neve is the drag/queer performance dance music project of Joey DeFrancesco, guitarist and co-lead songwriter in one of LOUD WOMEN’s favourite ever bands in the world ever, Downtown Boys. Smoking hot new single ‘Maximum Wage’ is out now and sonically it’s a very different beast to the crashing punk maelstrom of the ‘Boys – a driving digital disco beat with retro synth flourishes that have you reaching for the joystick. The pure punk delivery and themes of socialist insurrection are lovingly familiar though. Hell yeah, wage ceiling now!
The track is the first from La Neve’s debut album, which is coming out this summer. La Neve was good enough to chat to our Cassie Fox about it …
How did La Neve come about?
La Neve started a few years ago when I started doing drag shows with original music at Spark City, the old venue we used to run in Providence. I had done more conventional drag performance when I was younger, but getting back into it I wanted to do something different and sort of use it as one component in a larger dance music project. It’s an important identity for me to be able to express. I write and produce all the music myself, but sometimes live our saxophone player Joe DeGeorge will join me, and on some upcoming shows I’ll have live drumming from Karna of TheKominas. The goal is to make it more of a full band live, because that’s more fun than just playing with a computer.
What in particular sparked this song?
I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but you sometimes hear the statement, “Every billionaire is a policy failure.” In Downtown Boys, we’ve written a few songs in the past that are just straight up policies, such as “100% Tax,” and I like the idea of a song that can be good aesthetically but also directly propagandize a specific agenda. Extreme wealth inequality – the concentration of such unbelievable amounts of capital in the top percent – has already so thoroughly destroyed our societies and our environment. We need serious, radical new systems to redistribute that wealth. These billionaires are not romantic renegades to be idolized; they are the super villains, true scum who aim to rule over everyone, and we need to take the threat seriously. “Maximum Wage” means cutting off anyone from having that much wealth and power.
What kind of reaction have you had so far to the track?
Definitely lots of support from friends on getting new stuff out there, but otherwise hard to tell. This is still a relatively new project, and the music’s maybe hard to classify, so I’m trying to find who’s into it. I’ll be playing some shows over the next couple months, bringing what I think is a fun live show on the road, so I hope to convince more people what it’s all about.
Looking forward to hearing the album – what can we expect?
The next record is a lot more dance oriented than my previous EP, and has higher quality songs and recordings, so I’m excited to present a truer vision of what this project is supposed to be about. I like to dance, and I like dance music and culture, and I like political art, and I like punk, and I hope in the end the record’s a successful blend of all those elements.
La Neve is clearly different kind of sound to Downtown Boys, as you say with lyrical themes in the same direction. Has electronic music always been a passion for you, more so than punk/guitar music would you say? Or do you love both equally?
I first came to music via guitar music, but for many years I’ve gotten more and more into electronic and dance music. I think you can hear that on the last Downtown Boys record as well, as the music I was writing started incorporating more synthesizers and dance grooves. Some people want to imagine punk as the only politicized music, but from the beginning techno, house, etc., all had strong political underpinnings, and came out of vibrant underground DIY cultures, largely amongst black musicians. I love all these musics and I hope I can integrate them in an effective way.
I must also ask as a huge DBs fangirl … we featured the fab Gauche last week, and seeing the awesome La Neve sproinging into action this week – what does this mean for the DBs?? Say it ain’t the end …
The Gauche record is so great. It’s a funny coincidence we’re putting these out so close together. And our saxophone player Joe DeGeorge also just announced a new record from his band, Harry and the Potters. But then Downtown Boys is also leaving for tour in about a week. There’s a lot going on! The band has been slowing down a bit lately after going really hard for several years. We’re still playing, but in different geographies right now, so I really don’t know what’s next, but we never knew what was next at any point.
What’s next for La Neve – album tour maybe? Outside the US? (London is so ready for La Neve btw, come play!)
Yes once the album’s out I’ll be going everywhere! La Neve is really the more highly realized version of myself, and it’s incredibly exciting to get to do the performance and exist as that person in new spaces. I want to keep building out the live show and I hope to be in London as soon as I possibly can.
The Coathangers live at ‘The Latest Bar’, Brighton 24 April 2019. Review by Tony Rounce
It’s been a long time since the Coathangers came together in Atlanta, Georgia – 12 years, to be exact. In that time they have maintained unchanging membership – discounting the loss of keyboard player Candice Jones in 2013, at which point they became a trio. And it’s as a trio that they have returned to wreak powerful musical havoc on the UK, for an overdue and very welcome series of shows all over the country.
If you don’t know the Coathangers’ music, it’s certainly time you got to know. Should you be looking for comparisons (loath as I am to make them) I would say maybe the Runaways meet KateNash meets the Plasmatics, or thereabouts. The band is very much in its prime, and a tour-opening show at Brighton’s ‘The Latest Music Bar’ on a chilly late April evening demonstrated that, as loud women go, they are profoundly as loud as LOUD gets!
For an hour and a quarter, the Coathangers played not so
much to an appreciative audience, as at it.
Song after song came in waves, a relentless attack unencumbered by
superfluous sonic effects and unnecessarily lengthy solos.
This is your archetypal power trio, with the emphasis
entirely on ‘power’. Very tall drummer
Stephanie Luke/Rusty Coathanger doesn’t so much play as punish her kit, almost
stabbing its skins with her sticks at times. Luke’s snarling
‘Lemmy-with-laryngitis’ vocal style and her perpetually whirling and twirling
blonde hair as she knocks seven shades of you-know-what out of her kit makes
her presence at the back of the stage impossible to ignore. This visually
compelling woman could play with her back to you, and you would still find it
hard to focus your attention away from her. She’s flanked on either side by
equally tall guitarist-singer Julia Kugel-Montoya/Crook Kid Coathanger,
possessor of a choppy, compelling playing style and a voice that alternates
between winsome teen queen and howling banshee, and quietly confident pocket
rocket Meredith Franco/Minnie Coathanger on bass, who offsets the
larger-than-life stage presence of her two pals.
Unfortunately someone else got to the set list before I did,
so I can’t present you with detailed analysis of what was played and in what
order – but, from memory and a quick skim through the CD prior to writing this,
the 20-plus song set (with encores!) included just about and probably all of
their recently released seventh album The
Devil You Know plus a generous helping of their extensive back catalogue –
all performed at beyond-maximum volume, and with unrelenting cheerful
aggression. Between-song chatter was kept to a minimum in order to cram as much
music in as possible. Given that we
don’t get to see the Coathangers every week, it was a social nicety worth
There was a point, roughly halfway through the set, when the trio played a blistering ‘F*** The NRA’ off the new album to a tumultuous response – and suddenly everything seemed to shift up a gear or two, and become even more exciting than it already was. As the set moved towards its conclusion the three women began a round of musical chairs with first Luke strapping on Kugel-Montoya’s guitar and taking over Blanco’s mic while K-M manned the drumkit and sang. She reclaimed her guitar and Bianco moved behind the drums for yet more outrageously loud fun and frolic. The evening ended with a well-lubricated K-M (who had been keeping her voice oiled with a by-then-fairly empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s) audaciously asking if anyone had any marijuana they would like to share with her (I would like to think she found a volunteer…) and a rapid disappearance into the dressing room that nobody really was ready to see. They had worked hard for their money. I doubt if anyone present felt short changed, especially when the undercard also included never less than brilliant local heroes, ARXX.
The Coathangers are touring the EU this month. By the time
you read it they will likely as not be on the continent, which means you may
well have missed them. If you can’t
catch this phenomenal band this time, do yourself a favour – go and buy/stream
the new album and as much of their catalogue as you can find, and learn all the
songs in readiness for their next tour.
LA punk sisters Bleached have triumphantly returned to the music scene with their first new single in two years.
For fans of the fuzzy surf-punk sound Bleached have honed so perfectly in older songs, this latest single may come as a shock, as the two spend most of the track pairing down their sound to just an acoustic guitar and Jennifer’s vocals. This, it turns out, is yet another thing Bleached can do extraordinarily well – with no distractions, full attention can be payed on the raw vulnerability of Jennifer’s lyrics, which remain as bracingly urgent and confessional as their previous louder tracks.
As the song creeps along to the final chorus however, a full band comes screeching in for a familiarly defiant finale – one that is completely satisfying and entirely worth the wait.
Watch the video (filmed in one take!) for Bleached’s Shitty Ballet here:
Hard-rocking four piece Petrol Girls are some of the feminist rock scene’s biggest rising acts. They’ve spent the last year bringing their fierce hardcore style and lyrics of cathartic rage to new listeners across the continent on a plethora of tour dates, and all of this has given them the “patchwork of different sounds, ideas and feelings” that inspire their upcoming album Cut and Stitch.
As the title suggests, the album expands on their previous EPs and LPs to give a more angular and experimental style that does indeed sound like a quirky patchwork, but their fiery spirit has stayed very much the same. This is encapsulated in the intro, where a trippy and distorted background drone accompanies frontwoman Ren Aldridge’s ponderings on the music industry and even more existential concepts of creativity as a whole. It’s a clear signpost into a more experimental leaning for the record, which the rest of the interludes reflect. However, it still gives listeners a nice reminder of Petrol Girls’ sharp songwriting abilities and activist instincts, which leads us seamlessly into leadoff single ‘The Sound’. Drummer Zock Astpai’s transition expertly builds tension before dropping into the relentless single, where punky powerhouse riffs soundtrack Aldridge’s frank revelation of feeling unheard as a minority. As one of the bands’ biggest selling points has always been emotional honesty and intensity, this fits them perfectly. But as always, there’s no way for energy like this to go unheard; it demands to be taken seriously with any listener’s full attention.
In contrast with some of the songs on their previous album, Talk Of Violence, which seemed to capture the anger and bargaining stages of the grief and trauma process, a lot of this record’s songs are built on the idea that “sometimes being vulnerable is just as radical as being angry”, as Aldridge told us. This vulnerability is as unashamed as their anger is, from the insecurity turned pride in refusing to conform and assimilate that we see on ‘Monstrous’ to the struggle men face to express their emotions under expectations of toxic masculinity that are explored in ‘Talk In Tongues’. Both tracks prove the group’s commitment to activism in their music, not just through anger but through nuance. Their lyrics show a real struggle that’s matched by their stormy and tense playing, as well as by the pained screaming vocals; there’s a real passion to their entire sound with which the band implore listeners to join them in solidarity.
‘Cut & Stitch’ will be released on May 24th via Hassle Records, and will be available on 12” vinyl and CD. There are limited indie-exclusive and official store-exclusive vinyl colourways, plus a screenprinted sleeve version of the LP and a Rough Trade Edition written by Ren, both exclusive to Bandcamp.
PETROL GIRLS ON TOUR: MAY 02 – SBAM Fest, Wels AT 04 – Ladyfuzz Fest, Brighton UK 05 – Handmade Fest, Leicester UK 05 – 0161 Fest, Manchester UK 09 – The Great Escape Fest, Brighton UK 22 – Anti-Fest, Antwerp BE 23 – Anti-Fest, Amesfoort NL 27 – Rough Trade Instore, Nottingham 28 – Rough Trade Instore, Bristol 29 – Rough Trade Instore, London East 31 – New Cross Inn, London(w/ War on Women) JUN 01 – Hell Hath No Fury Fest, Manchester 03 – Autonomour Space, Glasgow(w/ War on Women) 04 – Red Rum, Stafford (w/ War on Women) 05 – The Cavern, Exeter (w/ War on Women) 07 – Magasin 4, Brussels BE (w/ War on Women) 09 – Booze Cruise, Hamburg DE 10 – Bei Chez Heinz, Hannover DE(w/ War on Women) 11 – Underdogs, Prague CR(w/ War on Women) 12 – Schlachthof, Wiesbaden DE(w/ War on Women) 13 – AJZ Bahndamm, Wermelskirchen DE(w/ War on Women) 14 – Jugendhaus West, Stuttgart DE(w/ War on Women) 15 – Gibus Club, Paris FR (w/ War on Women) 16 – Le Farmer, Lyon FR (w/ War on Women) 18 – Dynamo Werk 21, Zurich CH(w/ War on Women) 19 – EKH, Vienna AT(w/ War on Women) 20 – Kapu, Linz AT(w/ War on Women) 21 – Glockenbachwerkstatt(w/ War on Women) 22 – Bollwerk 107, Moers(w/ War on Women) 28 – Trabendo – Paris, France (w/ La Dispute) 29 – Carlswerk Victoria – Cologne, Germany (w/ La Dispute) 30 – Gorilla – Manchester, United Kingdom (w/ La Dispute) JUL 01 – Saint Luke’s – Glasgow, United Kingdom (w/ La Dispute) 02 – Electric Brixton – London, United Kingdom (w/ La Dispute) 05 – Astra – Berlin – Berlin, Germany (w/ La Dispute) 07 – Conne Island – Leipzig, Germany (w/ La Dispute) 08 – Schlachthof – Wiesbaden, Germany (w/ La Dispute) 09 – Legend Club – Milan, Italy (w/ La Dispute) 11 – 2000Trees Festival, Cheltenham UK 13 – Kliko Fest, Haarlem, NL
Legendary independent record label Kill Rock Stars have launched a podcast miniseries celebrating the 25th anniversary of Potty Mouth – the seminal album of Bratmobile. Separated into five bite-sized parts, Girl Germs charts the musical journey of AllisonWolfe, ErinSmith and MollyNeuman, who came together during the early days of Riot Grrrl – the underground feminist punk movement that defined much of the DIY music scene of the 90s.
For anyone already interested in the feminist punk scene of the 90s, mentions of the landscape where Bratmobile formed will already sound familiar, as references to Evergreen State College, the town of Olympia and the scene that surrounded Oregon at that time crop up continually to define the environment Bratmobile was born out of. From the first episode it becomes clear that there were no bystanders in the thriving punk scene of Olympia during this time, and to fit in you needed to be actively contributing and creating – whether it was setting up feminist art gallery like Reko Muse, creating zines to spread awareness of social issues and underground activists, or organising spoken word open mic nights. For Bratmobile, this meant starting a band and, as Molly Neuman explains, their band was pretty much as DIY as you could get – they learnt to play as they went along, decided to play their first gig with BikiniKill as a dare, and recorded their debut album in 24 hours – which explains the unrestrained often primitive sounds that encapsulates much of Bratmobile’s music.
The story of Bratmobile in Girl Germs is punctuated by reflections not only from the band, but their peers and a generation of bands they inspired. Contemporaries such as Tae Won Yu of KickingGiant reflects on the DIY elements of the band being a catalyst for a new way of making music, believing Bratmobile ‘changed what people thought was worth doing in punk rock’ by refusing to copy other bands to figure out the next steps to take, instead creating and honing a sound that seemed entirely unique to the current music scene.
Girl Germs tracks not only Bratmobile’s rise to fame, but the rise of Riot Grrrl in general – CorinTucker of Heavens to Betsy speaks to this as she reminisces on her place in the scene, and the sometimes negative pressures that affected many women in the movement. Tucker explains that many Riot Grrrl bands were making music before bands like Nirvana broke, so the underground scene was something the media wasn’t often interested in – or worse still, something they trivialised entirely. Tucker reflects on her own efforts to distance herself from the Riot Grrrl scene, which often became a trap for women in punk music, to constantly only be asked what it’s like to be a woman in punk, not someone in a band making great music. And though the Riot Grrrl era is long gone, the idea of being a woman in a band as a novelty is still something that is perpetuated in much of the music industry today.
It’s important to remember the flaws and criticisms of the Riot Grrrl movement – by no means perfect, the scene was often rightly accused of not being diverse and inclusive enough, and fights within the scene itself about policing the right way to be a ‘Riot Grrrl’ is discussed in the podcast as being a major reason for Bratmobile’s initial break up on stage in 1994. This is worth noting, because the nostalgia that often surrounds these movements and scenes often does not reflect what the music scene actually needed, and still needs today – for all women to be part of the movement, for it to be any kind of movement at all.
From Riot Grrrl icons Bikini Kill announcing their first
tour in over 20 years, to NME fronting an entire series of women in music
nights using the ‘Girls To The Front’ tag line, the spirit of Riot Grrrl ethos
captured so neatly in the Girl Germs podcast is clearly something that still
has a huge relevancy in music industry today. Towards the end of the podcast,
there is hope that the continuing legacy of Bratmobile will inspire more women
and girls to pick up an instrument, claim their space, and whether they think
they are ready or not, do it anyway.
For all those who support putting women on stage, and turning up the volume