Former riot grrrl returns with her surf-punk guide to life
In 1991, feminist punks Bikini Kill published their second eponymous zine, and inside it the manifesto that defined riot grrrl. It made their mouthpiece, Kathleen Hanna, into the movement’s leader – a position she tried to refuse because, she learned, the problem with spelling out your beliefs means the second you change your mind you’re dismissed as a traitor, a phony.
After Bikini Kill ended in 1997, Hanna formed Le Tigre, who went on hiatus in 2007. After finding out that she had debilitating Lyme disease, Hanna founded The Julie Ruin in 2010 with the intention of making music for herself, rather than living up to anyone’s expectations.
‘Run Fast’, their debut, contains songs about art, activism and survival – Hanna’s former calling cards – alongside songs that explore marital love, hedonism and feminist myths; there’s no single agenda. Most of Hanna’s lyrics are bawled with a lusty disregard for making herself immediately understood, buzzing within the bright, ragged recording of the band’s mind-destroyingly catchy B-52s-style surf-punk.
The overdriven ’60s pop of ‘Oh Come On’ deals with how women’s work is never enough; ‘Cookie Road’ is a brilliantly mindless getaway soundtrack; ‘Kids In NY’ is a vampy Rocky Horror tribute to the city’s young activists and their creative dedication; and ‘Just My Kind’ is a joyous, flirty paean to her husband.
Such mainstream monogamy makes Hanna wonder if she’d fall foul of her righteous teen-self on ‘Goodnight Goodbye’ (“Will the teenage sneer you so cultivated/Sneer back at you and make you feel so hated?”) before the warm, synthy title track recalls the abuse she and her friends endured as young women.
Rather than any dogmatic list of rules, ‘Run Fast’ is fuelled by the ecstatic abrasion of contradictory personalities. It’s a more honest, human, realistic – and totally wonderful – guide to life.