record reviews august 2016


Hit Reset (Hardly Art)


Riot Grrrl lives. Formerly the founding member of lynchpin of Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna returns to the fray with her new band’s sophomore album following a three-year illness enforced layoff, seemingly having channelled all the attendant frustrations into its explosive sound, here manifested with the help of Kathi Wilcox, Sara Landeau, Kenny Mellman and Carmine Covelli. Never one to shy away from uncomfortable truths, it opens with the title track’s memories of her abusive father (“slept with the lights on, on the floor, behind a chair that blocked the door") who’d rather go out and shoot a deer than spend time with his daughter. By contrast it closes on an equally parental note, although this time Calverton, named for the where she grew up, is a quieter, softer off-key reminiscence of her caring mother. Between times there’s attacks on “male feminists” on the nasally sung, quasi-rapped Mr So and So (where she sounds almost like some Japanese girl band) and the aggressive controlling men on Be Nice, Hello Trust No One’s B-52’s styled mocking middle finger to a frenemy and ill-informed feminist expectations, Let Me Go’s handclappy pop song for her husband who pulled her through her illness and the self-assertive defiance of Time Is Up.

Musically it swings between extremes, one moment all squally, shouty indie pop of I’m Done and at others recalling classic 60s pop with Rather Not or echoing Talking Heads funk on Roses More Than Water. At 47, she sounds 17. She may make you feel that way too.

Mike Davies


Killer Brain Waves (Cool Thing)


Rowdy Southend punk fuelled by small town alienation, the four piece, headed up by singer Luke Branch, give no musical quarter with their fierce guitars and pounding drums, but, even so, as Joy In A Small Wage shows, they still have a strong grasp of pop accessibility. They don’t do ballads and titles like Second Class Sex, Monosyllabic Saliva, Born To Not Belong, Slacker Shopper and Sunday Commuters give you a pretty good idea of what’s coming well before the music blares out of the speakers. “Appliances were meant to break,” sings Branch on Necessary Appliances, which, like The Death of Television, attacks the numbing nature of disposable technology in a society where an “intravenous coffee machine feeds us caffeine”.

If you’re looking for reference points then Elastica, Feeder and perhaps a Brit take on Nirvana are a good place to start, although, if you’re already on board, you may find that you already have half of the album on previous singles. But, hey, that’s marketing.

Mike Davies 2020