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The Best of Babes in Toyland & Kat Bjelland


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 the garage.

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?

Track listing:
1. Introduction by Dr Timothy Leary
2. Dust Cake Boy
3. Vomit Heart
4. Spit to See The Shine
5. Right Now
6. Handsome & Gretel
7. Bruise Violet
8. He's My Thing
9. Istigkeit
10. Sweet '69
11. Ariel
12. Oh Yeah!
13. Surd
14. Mater Dolorosa
15. Introduction: Kat & Joan Jett
16. Quiet Room
17. Ice Cream & Cigarettes
18. Unglued
19. Git Go
20. Rosacea
21. Gone Away
22. Busiest Shopping Day of the Year
23. Money Shot
24. Sweetheart
25. Liberty Belle
26. Blue Valient

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