They’ve been described as both a punk and grunge band. However, the only adjective needed to describe this band is awesome. These ladies really deserve some more recognition.
Jumpy, ferocious bass? Fierce, relentless drums? Heavy, stuttering guitar coupled with edgy, screaming vocals? Yes, please. How come when VH1 documentaries discuss alternative rock bands of the 90s, all they talk about is Nirvana this and Smashing Pumpkins that? Babes in Toyland should at least get an honorary mention. After all, their first album Spanking Machine impressed the members of Sonic Youth so much that they were invited to tour with them. (Check out the documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke to see the results.)
Their names are Kat Bjelland (guitars, vocals), Lori Barbero (drums), and Maureen Herman (bass on albums Fontanelle and Nemesisters; Michelle Leon played bass on Spanking Machine). Check them out; they might impress you just as much as they’ve impressed me.
Is there a single Sonic Youth fan who dislikes Kim Gordon? Finding one who does is certainly a challenge. Gordon, whether it be because of her bass-playing, singing, songwriting, or sex appeal, seems to be universally beloved.
Where would the riot grrl movement be without Kim Gordon? Not much of anywhere, according to those who call her the “Godmother of Riot Grrl.” While she denied ties with the movement because Sonic Youth sounded dissimilar to groups like Bikini Kill, many young girls still saw her as a role model; indeed, girls would go up to her after concerts and ask, “Will you be our mother?” (Gaar 370).
What exactly did Gordon do that was so important? She played bass well while embracing her femininity, wearing dresses as she rocked out onstage. Any guy who thinks girly girls can’t rock will shut up after seeing Kim Gordon play. She wrote songs about women’s issues years before the riot grrl movement surfaced, covering sexual harassment in “Swimsuit Issue,” manipulation by the media in “Kissability,” and notions of female helplessness in “Protect Me You.” She adopted a calm, detached stage persona in a society where women are expected to wear their hearts on their sleeves. Perhaps most importantly, she helped to form one of the most influential alternative rock bands of all time, inspiring guys and girls alike and changing alternative music for good.
Thank you, Kim Gordon.
“Hey, Kool Thing, come here, sit down beside me.
There’s something I gotta ask you.
I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me?
I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls
From male white corporate oppression?”
Pretty cool bass.
Sources used for this article:
Gaar, Gillian. She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll 2nd ed. New York: Seal Press, 2002. Print.