(No official website.)
Style: grrrl riot, punk
Label: Kill Rock Stars
Home: Olympia, Washington (disbanded)
Members: Kathleen Hanna ~ vocals
Billy Karren ~ guitar
Tobi Vail ~ drums
Kathi Wilcox ~ bass
The group is widely considered to be the pioneer of the “riot grrrl” movement & was notorious for their radical feminist lyrics & fiery performances. Their music was characteristically abrasive & hardcore-influenced. This is their final album, even closing with "Finale" that has the line "time to go". It's hard not to think of other girl power bands L7 & 7 Year Bitch when listening to Bikini Kill & perhaps even Hole. Though, the connection for me isn't immediately musical as BK are far more raw & garage sounding, but the dominance of pro-feminist lyrics & angst of a woman's life lumps these bands together unintentionally or not. For me, musically, BK is more reminiscent of a lot of early pre-Nirvana grunge/Seattle bands due to the simple but aggressively played three chord arrangements, overly distorted guitar that rebel against the technically proficient solos of the glam years with screaming lyrics that are more about relaying a idea than creating literary perfection. Bikini Kills lacks the more literary lyrics of 7 Year Bitch & L7 but makes up for it with early Hole like-like energy. While vocally this is more akin to the Mike Patten of Faith No More & Mr. Bungle whose vocalizing may not be the melodic or necessarily singing at all. Low production quality, or maybe they wanted the vocals to sound like they are sung from the back of a tube, doesn't help anyones cause, let alone indecipherable screaming (i.e. "Tell Me So", "Star Bellied Baby") which I often decry on this blog as more hurtful than helpful. But, where BK lack in technical fireworks they make up with primitive energy. It's almost as if they have so much energy that they don't have the concentration to worry about how the music sounds. They've just gotta pour out that energy before it vanishes forever. L7 & 7 Year Bitch are feminist activists sending out a message while Bikini Kill is called to get the crowd roaring before hand. This is the music Courtney Love wanted to make with Hole but also wanted to have an MTV hit. A lot of people might be turned off by the punk attitude & seemingly near disregard for musical quality, but if you want to listen to the spectrum of grrrl riot & the historic movers & shakers you cannot ignore BK. Pussy Whipped is oft considered their superior release, but Reject All American is the more palatable with the energy restrained from the almost near chaotic earlier recording & the music more melodic.
CONCERT REVIEW: Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, c. 1999/2000. I had the opportunity to see BK, with Sleater-Kinney opening, a year before Sleater-Kinney found themselves mentioned in Rolling Stone magazine or on the national scene, though it was also near the end of BK. I think the legendary Seattle prog band Sky Cries Mary was the headliner but it's been too long to remember. Though I was caught in the sexual attractiveness of Sleater-Kinney's lead guitarist & my eyes completely glazed over, albeit I didn't know she was a lesbian though I had a tendency to have crushes on lesbians so really no surprise, I remember Bikini Kill having tons of energy bleeding out as much as their guitars. Plus, the fact that here was a band with a female front singer that was trying to put on aires or look like another sexy Debbie Harry.