1993 was a massive year for music, some era defining albums were released such as Nirvana’s swansong In Utero, the Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) considered by many to be one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever and we were introduced to soon to become beloved artists Radiohead and Bjork.
While these albums and artists were some of the biggest of not only the year but the entire decade, none were louder or more impactful than riot-grrrl pioneers, Bikini Kill and their debut studio album, P***y Whipped.
The riot-grrrl movement was a subgenre of punk which began during the early 90s around the time of third wave feminism.
It begun as many women in the punk scene felt that the scene was dominated by men and that sexism was rampant.
They wanted to create a space where women would be more comfortable going and even performing at these underground concerts.
Many a band came out of this movement, but easily the biggest and most influential band of the lot had to have been Bikini Kill.
Bikini Kill was a four piece, Tobi Vale on drums, Kathi Wilcox on bass, Billy Karren on lead guitar and of course the icon herself Kathleen Hanna as the lead vocalist.
Their songs tended to discuss topics synonymous with riot grrrl, ranging from issues such as reproductive rights, sexual assault and sexism to issues concerning racism, sexuality and social class.
Their sound was classic punk, short speedy songs filled with pulsating bass lines, guitar riffs and drumming along with Hanna’s abrasive and powerful vocals, accompanied with raw and stripped back production, all capped off with a feminist edge which made them an unforgettable outfit.
Their debut, which was released on the 26 October 1993, consists of 12 songs which clock in at just under 25 minutes all of which are fantastic tracks.
Some highlights include opener Blood One, Lil Red, Sugar and of course the song that became synonymous with the movement, Rebel Girl.
Rebel Girl is the riot grrrl anthem, it’s a catchy tune that has stood the test of time, it encompasses all that is riot grrrl and as a result it’s far and away the band’s most iconic and popular song.
So popular in fact that the song was featured in the hit Netflix show Sex Education and Miley Cyrus covered the song at the Superbowl. Not bad for a band on an independent label.
They only went on to create one other album in 1996 titled All American Reject (a much less vulgar title) before parting ways in 1997, while they were only together for about 5 years their impact on music and feminism is undeniable.
After the breakup Kathleen Hanna formed the band Le Tigre, another titan within riot grrrl whose sound was more akin to dance punk. They went on to create three albums before splitting up in 2004.
In 2019 Bikini Kill reformed and have gone on tour a few times since then but have no plans to create any new material.
While riot grrrl has faded since the 90s, its ideas and ideologies haven’t as issues they brought up in their songs 30 odd years ago are now featured on the front of newspapers and are at the forefront of debates worldwide.
Though some bands have picked up the riot grrrl torch since then such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Linda Lindas.