After signing to Seattle-based Sub Pop sisters Hardly Art, Kathleen Hanna and her entourage began piecing together the intentionally growling garage sound of new album, ‘Hit Reset’, the Julie Ruin’s latest album.
To some extent upon first listen, Hanna’s most recent outfit encapsulates the best of both her previous musical explorations – it seems as if the Julie Ruin takes the fragmented and electronic glitch of Le Tigre, to layer over the primal garage rock of Bikini Kill. However, this is more than simply throwing together old ideas – the Julie Ruin have produced a body of work here that stands atonally isolated. The electronic angle is most notably the biggest sonic expansion on this album. From stabbing sawtooth synths on ‘Hello Trust No One’, to cavernous bass depths and spasms of theramin wheedles on ‘Be Nice’, a seemingly chaotic blend of electronic waves tends to muscle forward in the mix. Think Cabaret Voltaire meets the Raincoats.
There are traces of Talulah Gosh sweetness throughout songs such as ‘Rather Not’, to counterpoint other angular tracks like ‘Mr. So and So’ – of which the latter happens to mention Sleater Kinney (ironically and intentionally sounding like a riff from Carrie Brownstien’s own back catalogue). It has a seemingly obvious influence of bands and artists with a strong feminine angle. With Hanna’s prolific connection to the riot grrrl scene and her interwoven themes of feminism, illness, abuse, sexism and euthanasia, ‘Hit Reset’ is morally, logically and politically mining into the opinions of an empowered woman in modern America.
Amongst the crudely-delivered and angered words, there’s a hint of humour to some of Hanna’s spiel. In one song, “I’ll need you for some press quotes / you’ll be playing midday on the dumpster stage / and on the flyers, we’ll make sure to misspell your name” is the sarcastic rhetoric used to personify every bad promoter that Hanna has had the misfortune of dealing with. This wit balanced with the dour subject matter sheds a glint of comedy amongst the rather bitter themes underlying the stories on this record.
And ultimately, that’s what the Julie Ruin do best – this is a band that doesn’t take themselves or their band too seriously, and in the process produce some honest, fundamental rock songs of genuine artistic merit. ‘Hit Reset’ is the splintered and enthralling sound of a band who’ve not forgotten that you can convey your message in the rawest, most primal sense possible, at the same time as being innovative in a 21st century way.
The Julie Ruin – ‘Hit Reset’ is out July 8th
Words by Jack Stevens