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November 10, 2010

Babes in Toyland – Ripe (Live, 1991)

Babes in Toyland – Dust Cake Boy (Live, from The Year Punk Broke)

Babes in Toyland’s early material is sorely underrated. I’m not sure if it is because they don’t fit into an established narrative about women in music – they aren’t riot grrl – or because they were part of the major label grab for alternative bands in the early 90s, who knows. The recordings are too clean, the vocals and guitar too distinct. Live, however, it is a totally different story as you can see by the above videos. The sludgy guitar lines and thundering bass paired with Kat Bjelland’s caterwauls…total female aggression and heaviness. Not to mention Bjelland’s, at the time, unconventional personal style! I wish there were more bands like this today. Not ostensibly feminist bands but harsh bands with women who aren’t just the singers. In my last Fader column I wrote about Cacaw and Nu Sensae, who are both mixed gender bands. Cro Magnon, who I think are no longer together, was also great.

The band was rock ‘n’ roll, and the musical orthodoxy in Olympia was sweeter, cuter, quieter, but Tobi got it. A similar thing happened at a Babes in Toyland concert, with Tobi and Kathleen and another girl, Kathi Wilcox, who worked with Tobi at a sandwich shop: “Everybody was debating,” Kathleen said, “could they play their instruments, was it fucked up that they were pretty – what are they supposed to do, wear bags on their head? – was it fucked up that she was a wearing a dress: All this kind of ridiculous questioning! And me and Tobi and Kathi were just like, that’s the most amazing thing we’ve ever seen.”
From Sara Marcus’ Girls to the Front

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