Any decent parent would be proud of a daughter who staked her claim as a “riot grrrl” these days. The grrrls’ soundtrack of choice is Bikini Kill, an Olympia, Washington quartet featuring singer Kathleen Hanna, a twenty-three-year-old former stripper credited with inciting the whole riot-grrrl shebang.
Riot grrrls pride themselves on a supposedly nonpuritan (albeit straightedge – no drugs or red meat) kind of feminism: They write SLUT on their tummies with Magic Markers and take inspiration from Madonna‘s clothes. But what might really make the world read their epidermis is if they were inspired by Madonna’s music. The EP Bikini Kill has plenty of yowling and moronic nag-unto-vomit tantrums over stock school-of-Sabbath riffage; like almost all noisy bands lately, this one is better at melody than at ugliness but usually opts for ugliness. The Kill also cages its rage in silly editorial doggerel – “YOU! DO! HAVE! RIGHTS!” – instead of letting the rage work on its own.
Hanna turns precious when she sneaks in Whitney Houston or John Lennon quotes, and the Sonic Youth hommage “Thurston Hearts the Who” is droney slop with somebody reading from a magazine on top, which was not even that amusing a stunt back when Flipper pulled it years ago. But “Double Dare Ya” has an exuberant female-bonding chorus, and “Liar” jumps from cruel playground taunts to jaunty Burundi beats. “Carnival” might even qualify as a real song, about nasty things that happen on the midway when grown-ups’ backs are turned – trading fellatio for roller-coaster rides, stuff like that. It’s the sort of trailer-trash truth Joan Jett told when she was sixteen (and Jodie Foster made movies about when she was), but it’s the only time these riot grrrls halfway sound like a riot.