Review: Jack Foley
AN INTERNET biography for Babes In Toyland describes them as
being 'about as harsh as rock music gets'.
From listening to the opening moments of their best of collection,
it's easy to see why.
Their grunge-style, no-holds barred, in-yer-face, and downright
raw style takes no prisoners from the outset, coming across as
an even dirtier version of Courtney Love and Hole into the bargain.
The band was mainly the brainchild of Kat Bjelland (pronounced,
appropriately, be-yellin), who united with bassist, Michelle Leon,
and drummer, Lori Barbero, in the 80s.
They describe their presence as being like 'a giant musical middle
finger jammed up the ass of mediocre boy-rock'.
Their debut single, House/Arriba was released as part
of the legendary Sub Pop singles club and caught the attention
of Sonic Youth, who took the trio on tour.
They quickly capitalised on the growing interest in the UK and
US with the Jack Endino-produced full length Spanking Machine,
a record powered along by its own energy, disgust and tenacity
rather than conventional likeability.
The band's entire stance and outlook was about empowering women
without resorting to textbook feminism and it's no surprise that
the PR for the band proclaims them for setting new standards in
bilious, vengeful, inspiring rock 'n' roll thrash straight from
That's exactly what it is. Noisy, loud, borderline crap, yet
clearly set upon delivering that aforementioned middle-finger
salute to conformity.
The guitar work is sometimes particularly strong, but Bjelland's
vocal style is probably a little too uncompromising and shouty
for its own good.
Everett True wrote of her, in his Live Through This: American
Music In The Nineties: "Her legs would be covered in
bruises by the end of each show from contact with the guitar,
pain dulled by constant stream of whisky... her screams sounded
ghastly and cleansing, an exorcism of her past and a recent succession
of bastard boyfriends."
In the case of this best of compilation, it's the listeners'
ears that might be suffering from bruising.
But then what else should you expect from tracks with titles
such as Vomit Heart, Spit To See The Shine, Bruise Violet
and Handsome & Gretel?