list is not meant to be a complete list of women in rock.
Rather, it highlights select women and/or bands which have been influenced
by, or have been influential in, the punk and alternative music scenes.
Example: You won't find Bananarama. You will find Bikini Kill.
After each entry, a select discography of the artist is offered. Instead
of listing every 7-inch B-side of an artist, the albums have been chosen
which exhibit best the artist's influence on music and culture.
B C D E
F G H I
J K L M
N O P Q R
S T U V
W X Y Z
Often cited as a prime influence on Debbie Smith of Echobelly
among many others, the Au Pairs formed in the late 70s as one of the foremost
second-wave punk bands. In a subculture that rarely accepted women as
musicians and opinionated lyricists, the Au Pairs were unique in the fact
that half of the band was female. With Lesley Woods on vocals and guitar,
Jane Munro on bass, and fellow feminists Paul Foad (guitars/vocals) and
Peter Hammond (drums), their sound capitalized on the highly-charged political
atmosphere of England in the 70s. Taking cues from Jamaican ska, reggae,
and garage rock, the double guitars and lack of testosterone-driven histrionics
made them a danceable punk band with political conscience. But for all
their timeliness, punctuality was not their strong point -- after Woods
failed to show up for a gig, the band broke up in 1983.
Playing With a Different Sex(1981)
Before there were Babes in Toyland, there was Sugar Baby Doll: a supergroup
of tough chicks in the forms of Kat Bjelland, Courtney Love (later of
Hole), and Jennifer Finch (later of L7). After splitting, Kat teamed up
with Lori Barbero (drums) and Maureen Herman (bass) to form Babes in Toyland.
On the surface, they resembled Hole and a slew of other Riot Grrrl bands
attracting attention in the early 1990s, but Kat's raw yet passionate
screaming and the raucous, raging guitars set them apart from their more
melodic sisters. Their breakthrough record Fontanelle garnered
good reviews and the mainstream took notice of the Babes' angry, pointed
lyrics as much as their kinderwhore image. Their follow up, Nemesisters,
far outshone Fontanelle in both musicianship and maturity, though
losing none of their trademark feminine rage.
Riot Grrrl may not have existed in such a powerful capacity if it hadn't
been for Bikini Kill, and frontlady Kathleen Hanna in particular. With
her shrill, caustic vocals screeching over the top of loud, undisciplined
punk, Kathleen became a dynamic spokeswoman for the Riot Grrrl movement
in America. Bikini Kill's music, which recalled the first Siouxsie and
the Banshees record as much as Fugazi, often took a back seat to Hanna's
lyrics, which called for no less than a female revolution in punk. After
appearing on a classic split single with Huggy Bear, Bikini Kill collaborated
with Joan Jett on the abrasive track "Activity Grrrl."
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (1994)
Possibly the only Icelandic band to ever win international acclaim, the
Sugarcubes' anarchist take on modern pop music was defined by the girlish,
uncontrolled and completely unique singing by their resident naif, Bjork
Gudmundsdottir. Varying in style between whispering and screeching, Bjork
wailed over lush, avant-garde compositions on the Sugarcubes' debut LP,
Life's Too Good, quickly making the single "Birthday" an international
indie hit. However, critical reception was cool towards the following
two LPs, and after the Sugarcubes split in 1996, Bjork went about realizing
a solo pop career, a career which actually began at age 11 with the recording
of her first album in Icelandic. Her debut (adult) album, titled Debut,
was a typically unusual mix of trip-hop rhythms, quirky electronic touches,
and wild vocals. The success of Debut and the follow-up, Post,
catapulted Bjork into a unique position in popdom: independent, beholden
to no particular style or genre, and completely in control of her weirdness.
Life's Too Good (1988)
Like Bjork after her, Kate Bush confounded typical views
of women in music by developing her own unique artistry. First discovered
by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd in 1973, her debut record Wuthering
Heights was released in 1978. The soaring, looping vocals, exhibiting
her four-octave range and unusual instrumental arrangements, stunned audiences
with its originality and brash beauty. More astonishing was the fact that
Kate was only 19 and had already written over 100 songs. Her next few
albums covered intellectual and psychologically deep topics, such as feminism
and murder, paired with dark piano melodies and her wildly inventive singing.
Her 1980 album Never Forever was her first #1 album in England
and, unbelievably, the first British #1 album by a woman! Her 1985 album
Hounds of Love was her artistic peak, experimenting with a wider
range of instrumentation and with a more solid focus on traditional songwriting.
Though more revered in England than America, her independent style influenced
Tori Amos and Polly Harvey, among others.
The Kick Inside (1978)
Hounds of Love (1985)
The Sensual World (1989)
Cristina Martinez (vocals) worked at the same Haagen-Dazs in Washington
DC as Henry Rollins before becoming a star. After joining Pussy Galore
and moving from DC to New York, she became frustrated at the lack of musical
expression available to her in the band. She formed Boss Hog as a creative
outlet, even though the object of her rancor, Jon Spencer, eventually
joined Boss Hog and became her husband. Readers should be unsurprised
to hear that their first gig (at CBGB's) was a smash, considering that
Cristina was entirely without clothing for the duration. Hollis Queens,
a female drummer who had yet to play drums upon joining the band, upped
the estrogen quota of the band and lowered the ego level. And, their sound
proceeded to move away from the noisecore of Pussy Galore and into more
glamorous territory, taking cues from 60s soul, the Birthday Party, and
plain old rock and roll. Cristina is frequently called the grand dame
of NYC rock for a reason.
Boss Hog (1995)
White Out (2000)
Throughout their career, the Cocteau Twins have been defined by the otherworldly,
nonsensical vocal stylings of Liz Frasier. Rarely using actual words and
frequently taking advantage of Frasier's multiple-octave range, the Cocteau's
sound also included distinctive swirly guitars and ethereal effects. With
4AD labelmates Lush, This Mortal Coil, and Dead Can Dance, the Cocteau
Twins also helped define the overwhelmingly female dark-indie sound on
the mid-1980s. The Cocteau Twins burst upon the scene in 1980 on the strength
of their debut LP Garlands, recorded for only 900 pounds. The following
records Treasure and Blue Bell Knoll also stood out in their
discography, for their increasingly atmospheric soundscapes and avant-garde
vocalizations. In 1990, Heaven or Las Vegas was released to critical
and commercial acclaim, their most accessible LP in a history of off-the-wall
Bell Knoll (1988)
Heaven or Las Vegas (1990)
An anarchist collective that put message first and music second, Crass
actually adhered to their punk ideals, much to their own detriment. Crass
formed during the first wave of British punk, on a commune outside of
London, and had a mixed-gender line-up -- rare in the punk scene. The
founding members, Penny Rimbaud (drums) and Steve Ignorant (vocals), were
soon joined by vocalists Eve Libertine and Joy de Vivre, guitarists Phil
Free and N.A. Palmer, Pete Wright on bass and Mick Duffield on backing
vocals/shouting. Crass' musical style combined military rhythms and understated
guitar licks with surprisingly tuneful female vocals. Their double album
Stations of the Crass was a collection of astute political songs
and energetic calls-to-arms, preceding fellow punks the Clash by a few
years. Their following album Penis Envy, on which Eve and Joy took
over the vocal responsibilities, was a feminist concept album decrying
the discrimination and abuse of women. Crass also formed their own record
label in an effort to remain independent from capitalism, and released
Crass albums as well as discs by like-minded bands like Flux of Pink Indians
and the Poison Girls. The albums were sold at rock-bottom prices to subvert
The Man, but the band's failure to charge appropriate tariffs created
a huge tax bill that the band couldn't (or refused to) pay. In the early
80s, the band lost its momentum and broke up in 1984, as they had vowed.
Stations of the Crass
Fronted by the striking singer Toni Halliday and accompanied by Dean Garcia
on guitars and everything else, Curve's raw, squealing guitar noise and
danceable, industrial rhythms made them the darlings of the British indie
scene. Releasing three EPs in 1991 (later collected as the full length
CD Pubic Fruit), each record showcased Toni's breathy, ice queen
vocals and Garcia's wall of feedback, sampled drums and squalling effects.
In 1992 Curve released their debut LP Doppelganger, building on
their grinding, spiralling sound, and Toni became a popular pin-up in
certain goth circles. Their second record, Cuckoo (1993), explored
darker melodies and less of the energetic noisecore that made their debut
so exciting. After their guitarist Debbie Smith left to join Echobelly,
the group dissolved into indie history, but not before providing the inspiration
for a host of other bands - notably Garbage.
Pubic Fruit (1991)
Kim Deal made her mark as
the bass player for the Pixies, characterizing their sound with heavy,
brooding basslines. After the song "Gigantic" got her recognition as a
songwriter as well, she formed a side project with fellow Boston indie
lady Tanya Donnelly of the Throwing Muses. Incidentally, both bands were
on 4AD Records at the time. With Kim on vocals, they recruited Josephine
Wiggs (of indie group The Perfect Disaster) on bass and were tagged with
the cheesy mantle of "Indie Woman Supergroup" by a salivating
press. In 1990 they released Pod, a minor hit in alternative circles,
which also featured a particularly lovely album cover by the design team
at 4AD. The band really reached commercial success in 1992 with the release
of the single "Cannonball," an infectiously catchy slice
of pop heaven-success that an indie band today would have little chance
of achieving. The final Breeders album, Last Splash, featured "Cannonball,"
as well as the less catchy single "Divine Hammer."
Saddled early on with the annoying media tag of "first Asian pop star,"
singer Sonia Aurora Madan decided to use the attention her ethnicity garnered
to her best advantage. Unlike other Britpop bands of the time, Echobelly's
lyrics tended towards the political, with commentary on feminism, alienation,
and cross-dressing. Along with fellow rock chick Debbie Smith on guitar,
and emasculated males Alex Keyser on bass and Andy Henderson on drums,
Echobelly's signature power pop accentuated Madan's sexy vibrato, with
full-throated melodies and spiky guitar, especially on their 1995 album
On. Morrissey even said they were his favorite band.
Everybody's Got One (1994)
Singer Justine Frischmann has the dubious honor of being in a pre-fame
line-up of Suede, but that never stopped her. In collaboration with Donna
Matthews on guitar, Annie Holland on bass and Justin Welch (the token
boy) on drums, their 1995 album Elastica was an instant classic.
Borrowing heavily from Wire and like-minded no-wavers, Elastica was crowned
the leader of the misnamed New Wave of New Wave. Feedback-loaded riffs
like "Stutter" and "Waking Up" rarely left the British radio. 2000 saw
the release of the "difficult" follow-up LP The Menace, narrowly
missing a tie with the Stone Roses for the longest pause between debut
and sophomore efforts. Having expanded to a sextet, and experimenting
more widely with sound and production, the sneering, girl-powered pop
is there in full force.
The Menace (2000)
Garbage was an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic, due to drummer
Butch Vig's recent production work on Nirvana's Nevermind. But
it was the lovely Scottish frontlady Shirley Manson who garnered much
of the spotlight. With bright copper hair, heavily smudged eyeliner and
an unabashedly sultry delivery, she transformed tunes that would have
been simply above-average slabs of boy rock into crunching pop-goth with
feminine angst. The band has offten been compared to Curve, a huge compliment.
The 1995 record Garbage spawned the single "Stupid Girl," while
sampling the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go."
Version 2.0 (1998)
Unapologetic avante-garde rockers with a sense of humor, Sonic Youth have
been performing their particular mix of noisecore for almost twenty years.
At first, they shared tours and members with Lydia Lunch's band and released
a handful of underground records that only hinted at the wild appropriation
of pop cultural references and unusual instrumentation. Kim Gordon, singer
and bassist, was the focal point and founding member along with Thurston
Moore (also her future husband). Kim and Thurston cannot say no to a side
project, and in the mid-80s they formed Ciccone Youth, a band celebrating
the subversion of pop conventions that spawned a surprise hit (a play
on Madonna's song "Into the Groove"). Their more pop attitude shined through
on the Sonic Youth LPs Evol and Sister (the latter also
incorporating dreamy science-fiction references). Meanwhile, Ciccone Youth
released The Whitey Album with Kim's particularly ripping version
of Robert "I-Invented-Cheese" Palmer's "Addicted to Love." In 1988, Sonic
Youth released Daydream Nation, their most accomplished and successful
album, and then took a surprising turn towards corporate rock on Goo
(1990). Though more hit-prone than their previous releases, Kim still
took the rock world to task for its stereotypical portrayals of women.
Their later releases returned to the more ambient jazz-inflected rock,
especially on Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star. Kim's rock
outlet became Free Kitten, her band formed with Julie Cafritz, proving
that it's still possible to subvert pop music while being one of its most
Daydream Nation (1988)
Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (1994)
A pop star like no other, Debbie
Harry embodied the punk/new wave aesthetic of the late 70s/early 80s New
York. Equal parts sex kitten, dominatrix, ice queen, and girl-next-door,
Harry was a blast of fresh air amongst the male-dominated CBGB's scene.
Forming Blondie with musical soulmate Chris Stein, Harry would have run
the risk of being perceived as a blonde bimbo if the music and lyrics
they created hadn't been so biting, funny, astute, and catchy. Their hugely
popular third album, Parallel Lines, featured three classic singles,
"Hanging on the Telephone," "Sunday Girl," and "Heart
of Glass," and made Blondie and Debbie household names. The follow
up record Eat to the Beat spawned the hits "Dreaming"
and "Atomic," and, with their one-off single "Call Me,"
Blondie was unstoppable. The world soon learned that Debbie Harry was
not someone you'd want to mess with. She was an icon before Madonna, a
woman who captured both the independent spirit of punk and the ephemeral
amusement of new wave pop. Among other milestones, Blondie takes credit
for writing the first synthesis of both punk and disco ("Heart of
Glass"), and for the first rap single ("Rapture") to land
on the Billboard charts.
Plastic Letters (1978)
Parallel Lines (1978)
Eat to the Beat (1979)
The Best of Blondie (1981)
The singular British female artist of the 90s, Peej has built a career
on frank, undiluted lyrics and musical chops. Her writing often explores
the dark side of femaleness, and the strength that can be found in sexuality
and raw emotion. Her music is no less brash, beginning with the debut
album Dry in 1992. The wailing, banshee-like single "Sheela-na-gig" got
some college radio play in the United States, but didn’t quite bust her
out of the margins. In 1993 she teamed up with Steve Albini, producer
and former member of Big Black. Predictably, the following album Rid
of Me was a far more harsh, impassioned, uninhibited recording, with
Polly Jean venting her rage and the music answering her with slamming
guitars. Though some faulted the record for that reason, Polly Jean’s
musical ability was never in question, and was realized to greater effect
on To Give You My Love in 1995. The haunting single "Down
by the Water" proved that PJ could roll as hard as she could rock.
To Bring You My Love (1995)
Is This Desire? (1998)
What hasn't already been said about Hole? With a goal no less than transforming
the state of rock n' roll today, Courtney Love and company (Samantha Maloney
on drums, Eric Erlandson on guitar) have been under the media microscope
since the beginning, due to the band's propensity for controversial commentary
on everything from drugs to feminism. In 1991, Hole's debut Pretty
on the Inside contained the harsh, heartfelt lyrics and full-bore
guitar assault that would be their trademark. Courtney's marriage to Kurt
Cobain in 1992, and their musical similarities, fuelled the much more
accomplished Live Through This (1994), released just one month
after Kurt's suicide in April. A period of intense scrutiny followed Courtney
after the album's release to applauding reviews, and the band's problems
with drugs manifested in the heroin overdose of bassist Kristin Pfaff
just two months after the album's release. Replaced with Melissa auf der
Maur on bass, the band mellowed their sound on their highly-anticipated
follow-up Celebrity Skin. Despite containing the catchy single
"Malibu," it was generally considered not as strong as its predecessor.
But with Hole, one can never underestimate.
Pretty on the Inside (1991)
Live Through This (1994)
Celebrity Skin (1998)
Like fellow minimalist Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear was at the forefront of
the British Riot Grrl scene. Though never as popular as their American
counterparts, the band shared the same attitudes towards female-led musical
revolution. A collective that actually included (gasp!) two boys, Huggy
Bear also encouraged their fans to read various radical texts, start their
own zines, form bands, and overthrow the patriarchy. In interviews, the
band often spouted political slogans without seeming to fully understand
the implications of their rhetoric -- in fact, they seemed rather young.
But no one can undermine Huggy Bear's influence on the Riot Grrl movement,
culminating in sharing a single with Bikini Kill.
Taking the Rough with the Smooch (1993)
Frequently cited as the mother of punk n' roll, Chrissie Hynde was hip
even before she formed the Pretenders. She moved from Ohio to London in
1976, worked at Vivienne Westwood's shop Sex, wrote for NME and almost
married Sid Vicious (though only for immigration reasons). In the late
70s she played in fledgling incarnations of everything from the Clash
to the Damned, and in 1978 she got a group of Brits together and recorded
a version of "Stop your Sobbing," a Kinks cover. It was an instant hit
with the music press in London, and the Pretenders' first album went straight
to number one in the UK. With her take-no-prisoners chops and smooth,
elegant voice, the Pretenders blended 60s pop sensibilities with the new-wave
punk of the early 80s, and even broke America in what was practically
the last British band to make a dent on these shores. After two original
members of the band died from drug overdoses, and Chrissie fomented dalliances
with several rock stars, the Pretenders took a break in the mid-80s. Their
material in the 90s has contained a more introspective attitude than their
famous singles, but Hynde's voice maintains its power and emotion whether
singing soft ballads or rock numbers, all without compromising her musical
The Pretenders (1980)
Pretenders II (1981)
Last of the Independents (1994)
Isle of View (1995)
The original Riot Grrl. She founded the Runaways, the legendary all-girl
punk group, at age 16. Instantly noticed more for their gender and ages
(listed on the sleeve of their debut) than their catchy punk hooks, their
tune "Cherry Bomb" remains the definitive girl anthem. After internal
friction broke up the Runaways, Joan moved to London before she was twenty
and quickly hooked up with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols.
After a few demos, the collaboration ended and Joan moved back to L.A.
to work with her longtime producer Kenny Laguna. She formed the Blackhearts
and set about touring, where her dense, well-arranged punk ditties highlighted
her powerful guitar style. In 1982 she struck gold with the glitter metal
smash "I Love Rock n' Roll" -- put another dime in the jukebox, baby!
A string of albums in the 1980s followed, in which Joan rallied against
the bland europop of the decade with her own trademark hard rock, even
though ballsy attitude and feminine fury had fallen far out of favor.
In 1987, she stole the show from Michael J. Fox in the film Light of
Day, the highlight of her brief acting career, and in the early 90s
Joan worked with Kathleen Hanna (her again!) of Bikini Kill and Kat Bjelland
of Babes in Toyland on a number of tracks. Recently her material has taken
on a more metal, sexually adventurous edge, and her new butch persona
is sure to leave tough girls' hearts aflutter.
Bad Reputation (1980)
I Love Rock n' Roll (1982)
Pure and Simple (1994)
Though preceding punk by a good ten years, Janis Joplin followed her own
path. Unfortunately that path led to drugs, loneliness and more drugs,
but not before two brilliant albums captured her howling, bellowing voice
full of heartbreak. After joining the California hippie scene, Joplin
fronted Big Brother and the Holding Company, a blues-rock ensemble that
quickly became Joplin's backing band. Her savage, wailing vocal style
came straight from her gut, and her unconventional beauty (and image)
made her absolutely unique among the prim and proper pop songstresses
of the 1960s. She recorded Cheap Thrills in 1968, an album that
showcased her voice against appropriately spare arrangements. At age 25,
she was suddenly an international star, and the stress from the unlikely
popularity was eased by increasing amounts of heroin and alcohol. In 1970
Joplin was found dead of an overdose. The posthumous album Pearl
was released soon after and is widely regarded as her finest work.
Cheap Thrills (1968)
Oh, the short attention spans of the young. Kenickie roared onto the British
scene in 1996, famous as a result of punchy punk-pop sounds and youthful,
cute appearances. Formed in 1994 by Lauren Laverne (vocals) and Marie
du Santiago (guitar), the band soon recruited their friend Emmy-Kate Montrose
on bass and Lauren's brother "X" on drums, thereby breaking up the slew
of three-part names. Kenickie seemed like a welcome addition of girliness
in the overwhelmingly male world of indie pop. Before the debut album
Kenickie at the Club was released in 1996, they turned down a cover
feature in Melody Maker due to fear of overexposure -- these girls weren't
naïve. True to their independent nature, their songs were charmingly snotty
bits of power pop, but the magic didn't last long. In 1998 the group broke
up, and Emmy-Kate and Marie went on to form another project, Rosita.
Kenickie at the Club (1997)
Not just everyone's favorite producer of brilliantly sludgy
rock n' roll, L7 also has a conscience. Donita Sparks (vocals) and Suzi
Gardner (guitar) formed L7 in 1985, soon incorporating Jennifer Finch
(bass) and Dee Plakas (drums) into the fold. L7 made a name for itself
playing grungy metal, soon signed to Sub Pop records, which released the
debut Smell the Magic. The band's only modern-rock hit, "Pretend
We're Dead" (off Bricks are Heavy in 1992), was uncharacteristically
poppy but still retained the power chords endemic to their sound. With
the music press drooling at their feet, L7 founded Rock for Choice, a
group dedicated to preserving reproductive freedom and women's rights.
After the follow-up disc Hungry for Stink was released in 1994,
L7 went through a number of line-up changes but managed to release their
latest LP Slap-Happy on the band's own Wax Tadpole label.
Smell the Magic (1991)
Bricks Are Heavy (1992)
Hungry for Stink (1994)
Which side were you on -- Cyndi Lauper or Madonna? Many people forget
that, in the mid-80s, these two ladies were the queens of pop. Numerous
critics believed that Cyndi, with her superior singing ability, unique
fashion sense and East Village cred, would ultimately leave Maddie in
the dust. Her debut LP, She's So Unusual, (the first record this
writer ever bought) was a smash hit, featuring the timeless tidbit "Girls
Just Want to Have Fun," the song that will never die. The second single
(which Cyndi wrote), "Time After Time," is still featured at thousands
of roller rinks the world over. Cyndi's powerful, flirty vocals, paired
with exuberant electro rhythms and her famously multicolored hair (way
before Madonna!) made her a star. Her second album, True Colors,
caught her in a more understated, mature pose. The title song reached
number one on the Billboard chart in 1986.
She's So Unusual (1983)
True Colors (1986)
A Night to Remember (1989)
After the demise of Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna couldn't stay still. With
fellow punk-deconstructionists Johanna Fateman and Sadie Benning (also
a notable video artist), Hanna formed Le Tigre to further expand the definition
of political music. While Bikini Kill took its cues from early DIY punk
rock and angry vocals, Le Tigre takes a far more stripped down approach,
and employs obsolete electronic instruments rather than traditional punk
guitars. Hanna's voice still exhibits its definitive lack of training,
and the scaled down music explores self-conscious topics -- "What's Yr
Take On Cassavetes" being one of the more pretentious tracks. While cloaking
themselves in feminist, political, and musical experimentation, their
fledgling ideology relives some of the DIY aesthetic that made Bikini
Le Tigre (1999)
These girls have been keeping the New York scene alive for more than a
decade. Their highly irreverent musical style and personal fashion sense
sets them apart from other punk bands (more so than their gender), while
capitalizing on their sense of humor and formidable chops. Their 1993
record Binge and Purge occasioned Alternative Press to call them
"foxcorettes" while commending the album. Despite the fact that most of
the girl bands in the public eye at the time -- Babes in Toyland, L7 --
were of distinctly heavy sound and fury, the Lunachicks kept it refreshingly
upbeat. Their following records Jerk of All Trades and Pretty
Ugly highlighted Gina's impressively speedy guitar skill coupled with
Squid's infectious bass riffs. Singer Theo's vocals, at times raunchy
or sweet, display an uncommonly wide range of styles and emotions, usually
lost in more conventional punk bands. Their most recent record, Luxury
Problem, is heavier and more grungy than its predecessors, showing
another side of this never-dull band.
Pretty Ugly (1997)
Luxury Problem (1999)
Lydia Lunch is both a fiercely independent Renaissance woman and muse
to numerous artists in the industrial and alternative scenes. She began
her illustrious career in the gently named Teenage Jesus and the Jerks,
then performed in a string of unusual bands way ahead of their time. Lydia's
ferocious productivity has allowed her to collaborate on musical, poetic,
and dramatic projects with the Birthday Party, Einsturzende Neubauten,
Cabaret Voltaire, Michael Gira of the Swans, Exene Cervenka, and Sonic
Youth! If that wasn't enough, she founded her own production company,
Widowspeak, in 1985 as an outlet for her creative projects. In the late
80s and early 90s, she collaborated extensively with her musical partner
Jim Thirwell of Foetus and played in the all-girl punk band Harry Crews
(with Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth). Her uncompromising artistic vision,
and determination to explore the darkest recesses of human nature, is
exemplified on her many musical collaborations, spoken word performances,
underground films, and writing.
Harry Crews (1989)
Lush has the distinction of being one of the few shoegazer bands to actually
have chicks. In the late 80s and early 90s, Lush's sound was just that:
ringing wall-of-noise guitar feedback, swirly rhythms, shimmering percussion
and Miki Berenyi's girlish, breathy voice. After being signed to 4AD records
(them again!) in 1989, Robin Guthrie, of labelmates Cocteau Twins, lent
his hand in producing a few EPs, later collected as the Gala CD.
The band's ethereal yet ambitious sound was well received, but on the
proper debut Spooky, the production threatened to drown out the
actual music. After the overlooked LP Split, Lush came back with
Lovelife, a more upbeat and energetic record. The hit "Ladykillers"
also featured clearer vocals and lyrics that cleverly deconstruct silly
male behavior. Despite the success, drummer Christopher Acland committed
suicide in 1996 and the band broke up soon afterwards.
Unfairly ignored in the annals of American indie rock, Magnapop was a
quartet from Athens, Georgia (cue associations with Michael Stipe) which
released three albums in the mid 1990s and was promptly never heard from
again. The core of Magnapop was Ruthie Morris (guitar) and Linda Hopper
(vocals), augmented by a revolving rhythm section. The band's punchy rock
n' roll had a dark edge to it, characterized in Ruthie's vicious guitar
licks and Linda's sing-talky voice. The first LP Magnapop featured
the catchy pop riffs of "Merry" and "Favorite Writer"
(produced by the omnipresent Stipe) and earned them a huge fan base in
Holland and Belgium, of all places. The following LPs, Hot Boxing
and Rubbing Doesn't Help, built on indie foundations with a harder
guitar style and fewer pop stylings. Magnapop should be compared favorably
to fellow rockers Juliana Hatfield and Superchunk.
Rubbing Doesn't Help (1996)
Originally an art rock band (with the likes
of Jim Shaw & Mike Kelly) Niagara later teamed up with Ron Asheton (ex-
Stooge), Mike Davis (MC5) and Larry Steele to become a real, gritty rock
'n roll band. With songs like "Bored," "November 22nd," "You're Gonna
Die," (...so I asked my mother 'cuz she doesn't lie, took a look at me
and said you're gonna die...) "Meet the Creeper," and "What Do I Get,"
and a brilliant cover version of "These Boots Are Made for Walking", they
were very influential on the Detroit/Ann Arbor scene from the late 70's
to mid 80's when Mike moved to Arizona. They probably would have been
better known elsewhere if Ron hadn't had an aversion to New York. After
the band broke up, Niagara continued to play with Ron and Larry in a sort
of Detroit all-star (don't get this wrong -- it was anything but slick)
revue band called Dark Carnival. The band was around until a few years
ago but Niagara prefers to concentrate on painting now.
Contributed by Wendy of Sugar Syndicate
A supermodel, a stuatesque chanteuse, a pop-art muse, and a proponent
of goth rock -- Nico's association with the Velvet Underground was merely
a blip on her radar screen. Despite a certain banana-covered album which
made her famous, she was independent to the point of self-destruction.
After splitting with the Velvets, she recorded the folky, melancholy LP
Chelsea Girl in 1968. Though the poor girl couldn't sing on pitch
to save her life, her strikingly deep and resonant voice illuminated the
soft melodies of her solo work. Her Teutonic accent even recalled another
smoker-voiced singer, Marlene Dietrich. After Chelsea Girl she
acquired an interest in psychedelic drugs, and the predictably desolate
vibes of her following albums failed to make her a star in her own right.
Her decade-long heroin habit didn't help either. Tragically, Nico died
of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1988 after falling off her bicycle.
The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
Chelsea Girl (1968)
Perhaps the most reviled of female pop stars, as
much for her politics as her looks. Caught in the mix of controversy and
media spectacle is Sinead’s fantastic voice, furiously exhibited on her
debut LP, The Lion and the Cobra. Recorded when she was only 21,
the record shows a remarkably versatile vocal style, swooping from quiet,
introspective sweetness to vicious howling. The themes of feminism, yearning,
loss, and spiritual redemption are first explored to stunning effect.
The music world in the late 80s didn’t quite know what to do with this
petite, bald, quick-tempered and passionate artist. In 1990, Sinead became
a rock star of the first order with an atypical (for her) ballad, "Nothing
Compares 2 U," fomenting copious numerical abbreviations for actual
words. With that song’s success came unrelenting media attention, and
Sinead’s outspoken, though naïve, beliefs in the evils of the Catholic
church and female empowerment found her many enemies, especially in the
United States. The furor died down after a few years, and she recorded
two more albums worthy of note: 1994’s Universal Mother and 1997’s
Gospel Oak, which explored her more melodic and less strident side.
2000 saw the release of Faith and Courage, with the declaration
that she’s a lesbian. Sinead may be controversial and musically inconsistent
at times, but she is never boring.
The Lion and the Cobra (1987)
I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990)
Universal Mother (1994)
Faith and Courage (2000)
With sultry, hypnotic vocals over a film noir-by-way-of-Ibiza soundtrack,
Portishead was at the forefront of the trip-hop scene in Britain in the
mid-1990s. Coming out of the same clubs and studios as fellow Bristol
residents Massive Attack and Tricky, Portishead married seductive beats
to lyrics about love, alienation, frustration, and sex, in a way far more
intellectual than their colleagues. Geoff Barrow (programmer) and Beth
Gibbons (lyricist and vocalist) met in a job skills training class, and
each impressed the other with a desire to create avant-garde electronica,
coupled with complete apathy towards being rock stars. As a result, their
debut LP Dummy caused few ripples when it was released in 1994. But on
the strength of its first slinky, Twin Peaks-like single "Sour Times,"
and word of mouth throughout Europe and America, the album was awarded
the Mercury Music Prize in 1995. (Incidentally, the 65,000 pounds awarded
to the winning band is usually given to charity. Portishead kept theirs.)
One would have been hard-pressed to avoid hearing the CD playing in every
coffeehouse, vintage shop, and hip hangout throughout the mid-90s. In
1997, they released their self-titled album after a bout of artistic perfectionism,
and while it strays little from the original formula, the vocals took
on a creepier, more desperate, altogether more enticing sheen.
A real supergroup in the making, Pussy Galore was formed in the seaside
idyll of Provincetown, RI. Not finding the kind of gritty inspiration
they sought, core members Jon Spencer and Julie Cafritz lit out for the
nation's murder capitol, Washington, DC, in the mid 1980s. They released
an EP before relocating to New York City. Guitarist Neil Hagerty joined
the band, Jon Spencer left, and, up until this point they don't really
qualify as a chick rock band. Then Cristina Martinez, on guitar, joined
the group. The band took on an experimental, caterwauling sound that incorporated
industrial, metal, punk and rock n' roll. The career of Pussy Galore extended
briefly beyond the departures of Cristina and Julie, enough time to release
the delicately-monikered Dial M for Motherfucker, one of the most
apt titles in history. And what makes Pussy Galore a supergroup?
1) Jon Spencer went on to form the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and to
marry Cristina Martinez.
2) Cristina formed Boss Hog with Jon (before he left for the Blues Explosion).
3) Julie Cafritz, who is the sister of Daisy Von Furth, who is the business
partner in X-Girl with Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth (her again!), went on
to form Free Kitten with Kim.
4) Neil Hagerty teamed up with Jennifer Herrema in Royal Trux.
Did I forget anyone? I don't think so.
Sugarshit Sharp (1989)
Dial M for Motherfucker (1990)
Suzi Quatro, inspiration to Joan Jett among others, was one of the extreme
few chicks who found fame during the heady glam years in 1970s England.
She began her career playing in girly pop bands as a bass player, singer,
and sometime go-go dancer with charisma to spare. Her onstage personality
attracted the attention of producers at Rak Records in England, and Suzi
soon recorded the single "Can the Can" in 1973. It was a worldwide
hit as glam rock was applying makeup all over the airwaves. The hard rock
grooves were overlaid with lyrics focused on the sound of the words, rather
than the meaning -- similar at times to David Bowie and later neoglam
bands (like Suede). Her iconic stance, swathed androgynously in leather,
made her a fixture on the pop scene during the 1970s and 1980s. When her
good fortune waned, she relied on her talent as a singing actress, playing
Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days in the late 70s and then on British TV
shows. She continues to play and record, though her most lasting legacy
could be her groundbreaking work in the early 70s.
Greatest Hits (2000)
Kurt Cobain's inspiration, which may or not be
a good thing. An all-girl punk group in the male-dominated punk scene,
the Raincoats formed in London in 1977 because being in a band was the
thing to do. Ana da Silva (vocals/guitar) and Gina Birch (vocals/bass)
were the core members, along with Palmolive (the former Slits drummer)
and violinist Vicky Aspinall. Despite their lack of musical training,
their music was at once emotional, mature, and wildly experimental. Their
debut self-titled album destroyed stereotypical images of women in punk,
with lyrics exploring female independence, spirituality (really!), and
even violence against women. The follow-up Odyshape was a play
on society's attitudes towards the body, and female bodies specifically.
The most remarkable aspect is that their genius was borne almost by accident.
Their subsequent albums ventured further into out-there territory without
musical boundaries, leaving their punk roots momentarily behind. In 1993,
they reformed as a result of their new popularity, thanks to Cobain, and
later released Looking in the Shadows, a collection of songs proving
the Raincoats' timelessness.
The Raincoats (1979)
Looking in the Shadows (1995)
from the same New York scene as Pussy Galore and Boss Hog, Royal Trux
carried the gritty sludge-rock torch throughout the 1990s. Neil Haggerty
and Jennifer Herrema specialized in experimental sci-fi imagery, sonic
discordance, and no small amount of narcotics. Walking the very thin line
between the subversive avant-garde and the unabashedly rock n' roll, Royal
Trux were like Frank Zappa's cousin who had been fed Cheez Doodles his
entire life. Their 1992 album Royal Trux actually contained something
like actual songs, though suffused with drug-soaked blues and scary ranting.
Throughout the 1990s their rock roots showed more clearly, as they left
the junkie chic behind; their 1995 album Thank You was actually
released on a major label. In the later 90s both Haggerty and Herrema
kicked (mostly) their heavy smack habits and unleashed a more stylized,
focused collection of funk n' roll, especially in their LP Veterans
Thank You (1995)
Veterans of Disorder (1999)
Legendary rockers, an all girl band, an
inspiration to L7 and many other female artists. Also
bringing forth the careers of the original riot grrl Joan
Jett, and hair metal goddess Lita Ford, as well as
Michael Steele (who later went on to be the bassist for
the Bangles). As well as giving drummer Sandy West, front
man Cherie Currie, and Bassist’s Jackie Fox, Vicki Blue,
Michael Steele, Peggy Foster, and Laurie McAllister a
brutal encounter with the limelight. The Runaways,
created by producer Kim Fowley, with a few songs written by Kari
Krome. The band started as a power trio in 1975 with Joan
on vocals and guitar, Sandy West on drums, and Michael
Steele on bass. Michael quit, or was fired (depending on
who you ask) to be replaced by Peggy Foster whose time with the band was short-lived, (the band went through bass
players like toilet rolls.) Later came Jackie Fox, Vicki
Blue, and Laurie McAllister. Unfortunately not experiencing
too much success in their home country of the US, despite being
huge in Japan, they were also having a hard time trying to be taken
seriously. There were many rumors about the band,
stretching from being strippers, to Jackie’s suicide
attempt in Japan. Cherie had enough, and had left the band
when Joan took over as their front woman. The band went on
to record more albums and a few more gigs before their
split in 1979. Now, over 2 decades after the band's
departure, they still manage to inspire, and made a rather
significant mark in the history of rock n roll.
The Runaways (1976)
Queens of Noise (1977)
-- Amberly Howell
Shonen Knife, comprised of sisters
Atsuko and Naoko Yamano and Michie Nakatani, began playing together way
back in 1981, based in Osaka, Japan. They weren't well known in the West
until Kurt Cobain of Nirvana took them under his wing in the early 90s
by giving them support slots on Nirvana tours and championing their tongue-in-cheek
pop-punk, gleefully borrowing from the Ramones at turns. Kurt knew what
he was talking about (as he did with the Raincoats), and Shonen Knife
became the underground darlings of hep indie kids in the mid-90s. Their
cover of the Monkees' "Daydream Believer" is a classic.
Pretty Little Baka Guy (1990)
Rock Animals (1994)
In the opinion of this writer, Siouxsie Sioux has never been given her
due as a visionary artist and punk rebel. For more than twenty years,
she and the Banshees released unique albums with songs ranging from raw
punk aggression to psychedelic drug-rock to tribal-flavored pop, never
compromising their musical vision for album sales. Her stunning voice
has graced 12 albums, numerous singles, and even the Cure's first B-side.
Before she became a rock goddess, Siouxsie was a punk hanger-on, befriending
Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols and appearing at punk shows around London
in 1976. Two years later, The Banshees released The Scream, their
first album of short, spiky punk songs that nevertheless contained a few
pop elements and Siouxsie's distinctively strong and commanding voice.
The press loved them. Their second LP, Join Hands, was more experimental
and less focused than the first, though certain tracks did stand out.
For Join Hands, Siouxsie and longtime bassist Steve Severin were
first joined by Budgie, who played drums in the Slits - forming the core
trio of the Banshees. The following albums Kaleidoscope and Juju
solidified their influential sounds - Kaleidoscope was the more
atmospheric and new-wavey; while Juju contained the timeless goth-pop
tracks "Arabian Nights," "Spellbound," and "Night Shift." After Juju,
considered a pinnacle of the early 80s alternative sound, the Banshees
began exploring poppier psychedelia and different melodic textures. A
Kiss in the Dreamhouse and Hyaena, the latter with Robert Smith
of the Cure on guitar, contained brilliant, synth-driven pop songs and
swirly, soaring singles-classics like "Cascade" and "Melt" from Kiss,
and "Dazzle" from Hyaena. They also added the acid-soaked "Dear
Prudence" to their list of Beatles covers. Their finest hour on the pop
charts turned out to be their single "Peek-a-boo," from their 1988 album
Peepshow. Covering sadomasochistic subject matter and accompanied
by a fantastically creepy video, the songs recast the Banshees as a very
capable pop band as well as every other genre. In typically unpredictable
fashion the Banshees joined the first Lollapalooza tour (Siouxsie was
the only woman on tour!), and went out in a blaze of glory.
The Scream (1978)
A Kiss in the Dreamhouse (1982)
A British queercore sister to Tribe 8, Sister George continued the trend
of lesbian punk bands ranting and raving against the unfair world - songs
about dyke empowerment, bitingly humorous stabs at heterosexuality, and
weightier topics as well. Ellyot Dragon, ex-Israeli army corporal, first
joined the Darlings, which counted Lesley Woods (ex-Au Pairs) and Debbie
Smith (later of Curve and Echobelly) as members. Finding the Darlings
limited in scope, Ellyot then joined Sister George (as a singer) to explore
themes important to working-class queers. Impressed with the Riot Grrrl
movement in the States, Sister George released their first LP Drag
King on an indie label, riding the queercore wave.
Drag King (1994)
Coming out, as it were, in mid-90s Britain, Skunk Anansie were worlds
apart from the fey Britpop of the time. Characterized by superheavy metal-punk
and female singer Skin's emotional, caustic lyrics, the band was signed
to One Little Indian records after only their second gig. Skin made a
commanding figure on stage, with her shaved head and heartfelt, angry
diatribes describing her personal experiences with racism and homophobia.
Their single "Charity" showed the range of Skin's vocals, from sweet and
soulful to furious. Their first album Paranoid and Sunburnt, released
in 1995, was a great collection of hard rock suffused with more intelligence
than your average thrash-punk band.
Paranoid and Sunburnt (1995)
Whether they deserve all of the heaps of praise ladled on them remains
to be seen (Greil Marcus and Robert Christgau: this means you), but Sleater-Kinney
has undoubtedly emerged as the foremost proponent of girl-rock in America.
Their minimalist, bass-less sound echoes the DIY aesthetic of the Riot
Grrrl movement from which they came, but their musicianship and lyrical
content has far surpassed that of one-note wonders Bikini Kill. The twin
guitars of Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker, and the nimble drumming
of Janet Weiss, form a rocking background to Brownstein's wild vibrato.
Their sound is enriched when Brownstein and Tucker harmonize and Tucker's
quiet tones add calm to the storm. No shrinking violets, these girls have
been known to fight back against hecklers and rude, patronizing music
journalists with a one-hundred percent feminist agenda. Three albums of
the 90s - Call the Doctor, The Hot Rock, and Dig Me Out
- explored the potent themes of female desire, frustration, and power.
We'll have to wait and see if their politics will be able to influence
the rest of the music world.
Call the Doctor (1996)
Dig Me Out (1997)
Sleeper is the brainchild of Louise Wener, a cute and spunky poptart whose
image belies the intelligence and control of her musicianship. Providing
one of the few female voices in Britpop, her songs explore the typical
annoyances women must face in the everyday world, coupled with tongue-in-cheek
attitudes on the discrepancies between men and women-and great pop hooks.
Her distaste for trad feminism and her outspokenness launched her into
the music papers. After a couple of singles and a little-noticed debut
record, their indie breakthrough came in the form of the LP Inbetweener
in 1995. Containing the frenetic, ebullient single "Delicious," the album
charted in the top 20 in the UK pop charts. The following CD The It
Girl was more accomplished and produced by former Smiths producer
Stephen Street. The Smiths-y tune "Sale of the Century" was a hit in 1996,
and furthered Louise's gleefully naughty obsessions with relationships
and men. Interband tension led unfortunately to Sleeper's split in the
The It Girl (1996)
The Slits weren't unique in their total inability to play, but they stood
out from the crowd with their enthusiasm and willingness to try anything.
The blandly-named Kate Kaos (on guitar), Suzy Gutz (on bass) and Palmolive
(on drums) backed German heiress Arianna Forster (later Ari Up). Their
debut gig was in support of the Clash in 1977. After a line-up change,
the Slits became known in punk circles, incorporating elements of reggae
and ska (then popular with other British punk groups) into atonal yet
rhythmic songs. Palmolive left to join the Raincoats (and was replaced
by Budgie, later of the Banshees) when the Slits recorded their first
LP Cut. That they were signed to Island records, and assisted by
a reggae producer, is a testament to the varying influences of their sound.
Subsequent efforts threatened to veer into avant-garde jazz noodliness,
and after releasing their final LP they disbanded.
Is she an intellectual poet, a punk muse, or a self-satisfying artiste?
Patti Smith is all of these and more. Frequently considered the maven
of New York punk, and constantly named in the same breath as the Ramones
and Television, she began her famous career as a spoken word artist. Her
first gig, in 1971, was a rambling recitation of her poetry with rock
journalist Lenny Kaye contributing some rather free-form jazz. Her avant-garde
leanings were pronounced, despite her punk tag, on her debut LP Horses.
Partly produced by John Cale of the Velvet Underground, her imaginative
and accomplished compositions belied her relative newness to music. The
album was even financed by Robert Mapplethorpe and was an instant hit.
Her following releases paid tribute to 1960s garage rock, and especially
Jim Morrison. Ironically, many considered her a "punk" priestess, at odds
with her disgust of the British punk movements' trashing of traditional
good music. In the late 70s, her music ventured further into psychological
territory, exploring religion and personal growth, but some critics felt
her music was becoming self-indulgent. As a result, on Easter,
the production was more traditional rock and even spawned a hit, "Because
the Night." Her truly unique persona as an intellectual artist, rather
than a punk musician, continued to define her even after she semi-retired
to married life. In 1994, her life was shattered by the death of her husband,
an event that caused her to process her pain by performing. In 1996, she
released Gone Again full of introspective elegies in
memory of her husband. Her
newfound eminence as punk survivor and unrepentant artist promises to
keep her in the musical canon.
Gone Again (1996)
As planets orbit the sun, the core of Stereolab, Tim Gane and Laetitia
Sadier, have been accompanied by a revolving assortment of musicians.
After first coming together with the wise move of including a number of
NME journalists in the line-up, Stereolab trafficks in 'space age bachelor
pad music.' Their distinct sound incorporates varying rhythms, dreamy
vocals by Sadier, and vintage instruments from the 1960s to pay homage
to their influences: John Cage and John Cale being the two most prominent.
While always willing to experiment, their knob-twiddliness is thankfully
underscored by a competent base of pop melodies that save Stereolab from
muso oblivion. Their sense of humour, reportedly contained in the French
lyrics but unable to be understood by a majority of their fans, comes
through on the album titles. Most of their recordings reflect a pop sensibility
overlayed with 60s effects, while Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage
in the Milky Night is a more jazz and bossa nova-influenced record.
Transient Random Noise-Bursts with
Mars Audiac Quintet (1994)
Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1996)
Coming out of Portland, Oregon in 1993, Team Dresch released a brilliant
LP and cemented their queercore legacy. Donna Dresch (bass), Marci Martinez
(drums), Kaia Wilson and Jody Bleyle (vocals and guitar), were all veterans
of various indie outfits before forming Team Dresch. Spreading the message
of lesbian power through songs that ranged from angry punk to sweet rock
n' roll to hardcore, they released their first LP Personal Best
in 1995. Clocking in at only 30 minutes, the collection is a tightly-wound
spring full of energetic rage and singalong lyrics, with emotional heartache
to boot. After Melissa Yorke replaced Martinez on the drums, Team Dresch
released Captain My Captain in 1996. Without the cohesive, inspired
feeling of the former LP, Captain My Captain was a pallid follow-up
to the feminine fury of Personal Best. Kaia left soon afterwards
and the group effectively disbanded after releasing one more single.
Personal Best (1995)
A real case of blissful ignorance, Throwing Muses were indie darlings
without even trying. Formed by Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly when they
were still in high school, the inauspicious beginnings of the band were
actually helped (rather than hurt) by Hersh's and Donnelly's inexperience.
The mastermind of the band was undoubtedly Hersh, who wrote most of the
songs. Both ladies played guitar and sang, recruiting a number of bassists
and drummers throughout the years. Throwing Muses ignored conventional
song structures, and were signed to 4AD (them again!) almost by accident,
as their unusual vocal stylings and awkward musicianship were hailed as
unique and original. Soon they were playing gigs with fellow Bostonians
the Pixies. Their records Hunkpapa and The Real Ramona were
indie favorites, even getting a little radio play, but the Muses fizzled
in the mid-90s, a result of legal battles with their manager and Musician's
Union. Donnelly left to form Belly and then the Breeders, while Hersh
assumed full control of the band, but went on to foster a promising solo
career in late 90s.
The Real Ramona (1991)
San Francisco's very own sexy-feminist raging-dyke anarchists. Yeah! With
a sonic assault not lacking in a sense of humor, Tribe 8 has an improbable
total of three chicks named Lynn in addition to a Slade and a Leslie.
Without any mainstream attention, other than being lumped together under
the queercore tag with Team Dresch and Sister George, Tribe 8 have managed
to release three full-length albums and numerous singles. Their last LP,
Role Models for Amerika, opens with a song entitled "Sunbears,"
the lyrics of which I feel I must quote: "…If you ask 'em if they're happy
they say nope. They're rude. Sunbears. I like Sunbears."
Role Models for Amerika (1998)
Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thomson (both guitars and vocals) were girls
with a mission. Borne out of the same DC scene as Fugazi and Nation of
Ulysses, Tsunami was decidedly more pop than their male colleagues, though
retaining the same do-it-yourself aesthetic of punk bands. They released
their singles on their own label, Simple Machines, and invited other notable
bands - Velocity Girl, Unrest, and Superchunk among them - to share sides
of 7" singles. So popular were their efforts, that they created a series
of Simple Machines 7" singles, released one per month, and a carrying
case for them. Their one vice seems to have been elaborate packaging,
which eventually bankrupted Simple Machines - a very small operation despite
its incredible influence on the indie scene. Toomey and Thomson somehow
found time to record Tsunami's two LPs, Deep End and The Heart's
Tremolo, and join the Lollapalooza tour in 1993! Sadly, their pragmatic
pop is a vanishing breed in the indie scene today.
The Heart's Tremolo (1994)
The core girls - Nina Gordon and Louise Post - had guts to spare. Both
vocalists and guitarists, Veruca Salt reaped indie cred with their hit
"Seether" in 1994, a girl-rock confection that only scratched Veruca Salt's
surface. With the twin voices of Louise and Nina backed by a heavy rhythm
section and loads of distortion, they had the hooks and intelligence to
go with it. Nina's especially girlish squealing was highlighted on the
unfairly-overlooked EP Blow It Out Your Ass, produced to great
effect by Steve Albini. After interband tension caused Nina to depart
for a solo career, Louise recruited new bassist/vocalist Suzanne Sokol
and a new guitarist, Stephen Fitzpatrick. With the new line-up Veruca
Salt released Resolver, which didn't have the impact of their first
disc American Thighs - possibly due to the super-male rock and
teen-pop dominating the radio at the time of its release.
American Thighs (1994)
Blow it Out Your Ass (1996)
W/WENDY O. WILLIAMS
Wendy Orlean Williams must be one of the most hard-core chicks in rock n roll. For the late 70's and early to mid 80's, she fronted the punkish metal band, The Plasmatics, before going solo in the late 80's with albums such as “WOW“ and “Kommander of Kaos.” She was famous for her incredible stage performances --chain sawing guitars in half, slamming sledge hammers into TV sets, appearing on stage with nothing but whip cream, blowing up cars (mostly Cadillacs) and her infamous “It's My Life” music video where she climbed out of a speeding car into a moving helicopter before the car drove and exploded off a cliff. Also arrested for punching paparazzi, obscenity and assault. This psycho plant-eater made a bang in heavy metal history, before choosing to end her life with a shot gun in 1998. Keep in mind, however, legends never die.
-- Amberly Howell
Exene, as the singer in X, wrote some of the best punk-surf-rockabilly-goth
tunes Los Angeles ever heard. In fact, that city graced their first album,
which was an exploration of the strange nooks and crannies that Los Angeles
evokes. The haunting mix of eerie guitars and baleful harmonies (courtesy
of Exene's husband, Jon Doe) set them apart from their fellow punks in
the LA scene. They were, unsurprisingly, heavily influenced by the Doors,
and their first four albums were produced by Ray Manzarek to atmospheric
effect. After a string of albums beginning with Wild Gift, X's
spirit seemed to fade and the albums explored less new ground. When the
group split in the early 90s, Exene assumed a solo career with the album "Old Wives Tale," performed spoken word pieces with Lydia Lunch, and published
writing on Henry Rollins' imprint 2.13.61, keeping it in the punk family.
Los Angeles (1981)
Wild Gift (1981)
Possibly the only German female quintet to achieve international (or at
least British) acclaim, X-Mal Deutschland rode the wave of German industrial
bands then in vogue, like Einsturzende Neubauten. Their first British
gig was to open for the Cocteau Twins in 1982, after being signed to 4AD
records (THEM AGAIN!). Their atmospheric gothic-disco fit right in on
the 4AD roster, and their high estrogen levels didn't hurt either. Singer
Anja Huwe's vocals were insistent and forceful, backed by propulsive bass
and drum section and dark, swirly guitar effects. Their classic single "Incubus Succubus" remains a standard on goth dancefloors, and the album
on which it appears, Fetisch, remarkably became 4AD's best-selling
record in 1983. Afterwards, certain female members were replaced by token
males, and as a result, X-Mal's sound lost steam and reverted to standard
rock, rather than the eclectic disco it championed. Their second album
Tocsin failed to live up to Fetisch's promise. Sadly, X-Mal
is all but forgotten in any but the most esoteric circles, and doesn't
prompt the same misty-eyed nostalgia as other 4AD bands like, say, This
Mortal Coil. This writer is still waiting for the comeback tour.
Poly Styrene (not the name her mother gave her) formed X-ray Spex with
hopped-up saxophonist Lora Logic after the Sex Pistols broke the scene
open in 1977. Much poppier and happier than, say, the Clash, Poly leapt
around the stage in cute outfits, sang, screamed, and cooed through messily-arranged
punk-pop, and played off Lora's honking sax yelps. Their memorably-named
classics such as "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!" and "The Day The World Turned
Day-Glo" explain Poly's cynical but humorous outlook on England in the
late 1970s. Though less politically inclined than their punk colleagues,
they nevertheless took part in the Rock Against Racism gig in London in
1978, and consequently played for their largest audience. The same year
their milestone album Germ Free Adolescence (or Adolescents, depending
on whom you ask) was released, loaded with punk glee and music far more
complex than the average three-chord punk band. Bizarrely, the X-ray Spex
broke up that year as well. Poly joined a Hare Krishna sect and released
a few intermittent albums in the following decade.
Germ Free Adolescence (1978)
All content written and compiled by Kat Long, except where otherwise indicated.