Music

The Return of the Riot Grrrls

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On September 22, the pioneering riot grrrl band, Bikini Kill, reissued their original demo, Revolution Girl Style Now! The album is available through their eponymous label on vinyl, CD, digital download, and for full ’90s nostalgia—cassette tape.

Drummer Tobi Vail largely credits the demo with the band’s success. She told The Olympian in a recent interview, “The band rose to international prominence on the basis of the demo tape and our live show…we had toured the U.S. several times, been offered a U.K. tour and record deal, and had plans to record a single with Joan Jett—all without a record label, a booking agent or a publicist. So it makes sense to reissue the tape. It’s a big part of Bikini Kill’s DIY history.”

The album includes three previously unreleased songs, “Playground,” “Just Once,” and “The Ocean Song.” “The Ocean Song” was inspired by frontwoman and vocalist Kathleen Hanna’s work at SafePlace, and the overwhelming impact of domestic violence and sexual abuse survivors’ stories. She told The New York Times, “I felt crazy, I felt like I’d been dropped in the middle of the ocean, and I was screaming, ‘Look at all this stuff that’s happening,’ and was just making dolphin noises, nobody could hear me.”

The reissue comes as a change to Bikini Kill’s original attitude. “Back then, Bikini Kill was like, ‘Don’t take pictures of us.’ We were very freaked out by the male gaze,” Hanna told New York Magazine’s The Cut, “[So] much feminist work is erased that, looking back now, it seems like a pretty luxurious position to take: ‘No, I don’t wanna be in your magazine,’ or ‘I don’t want to be photographed.’ Now I see how many amazing artists don’t get any attention. And I feel lucky to have it.”  However, Vail added in the same interview that the intent of the reissue is to spread Bikini Kill’s original message. “Even though I have mixed emotions, I recognize that feminist culture should be documented and that means sharing our history. I’m most comfortable with the reissuing of the records because they were made with the intent of being distributed to a wider audience.”

Hanna issued a call to arms for today’s feminists in The Cut interview:

If the ‘90s are back and stretch pants are back and flower dresses are back, then Bikini Kill should be back, too. It shouldn’t just be about Sub Pop or Nirvana and flower dresses and combat boots. It should also be about young DIY feminism and what does that mean today and what can that mean today and how can that be built on in a way that’s better than what we did?

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