Sunday, August 8, 2010

Faye's history of lady instrumentalists [part two: Bjork, The Breeders, Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney, Veruca Salt]

Hi! It's Faye again with your weekly post on lady instrumentalists! (I feel like a radio announcer...)

Last time, we talked about women of the 70s and 80s. Today we're moving on a bit to the 90s in a post of genre-spanning madness! Fewer videos this time, so as to please your eyes AND your ears ;)

Bjork is probably one of the most important female musicans of our era: I was actually introduced to her through my semi-raver guy friend in middle school and later my gf. Her most famous project pre-solo-era is The Sugarcubes; she's more famous for her solo work, which ranges from pop, trip-hop and electronica to African inspired beats and orchestral sounds over the years. She plays a trillion instruments (among them various synthesizers), but sadly I couldn't find any good video of her actually playing. (Still, robot-clones-in-love are pretty awesome to watch while listening too.)

Lyrics Excerpt: All is full of love | You just ain't receiving | All is full of love |Your phone is off the hook | All is full of love | Your doors are all shut | All is full of love!

The Breeders is a band that was formed in 1988 by Kim Deal while The Pixies, for whom she played bass, were on a post-tour break. They added Tanya Donnelly on guitar and Carrie Bradley on violin, as well as Josephine Wiggs on bass; their lineup has also included Kim's twin sister Kelley Deal (guitar), Cheryl Lyndsey (guitar), and a number of other notable musicians, mostly female. Their music is by turns gritty and atmospheric, and definitely worth a listen. This video is their song "Cannonball", one of their first mainstream hits, off their second album (it's directed by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth).

Lyrics Excerpt: I know you, little libertine | I know you're a cannonball | I'll be your whatever you want | The bong in this reggae song

Speaking of which: Kim Gordon is another musician everyone should know. She's best known for Sonic Youth, but she also played bass and/or guitar in a number of bands, including Harry Crews (an all female No-Wave/thrash band with Lydia Lunch and Sadie Mae) and Free Kitten, (a collaboration with Julie Cafritz). She's also a visual artist, producer (Hole's Pretty On The Inside), director ("Cannonball"), mother, and fashion designer (in rough order of occurrence).

Lyrics Excerpt: I'm back again in love, I'm back again a dove | where'd you get your light, your smilin' sugar life | another lover's day, another cracked up night | every night I say, the light is coming

Sleater-Kinney was a (riot grrrl? indie? punk?) band founded by Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein in 1994. Their primary drummer was Janet Weiss, and they've also had drummers Lora McFarlane, Misty Farrell, and Toni Gogin. Tucker and Brownstein both played guitar, and Tucker's style, along with their unusual tuning (C#) allowed them to not have a bassist. Their sound drew influence from punk as well as grunge and indie rock, and often experimented with different instruments and arrangements. Lyrically they often addressed political messages, such as feminist and LGBT rights, anti-consumerism, opposition to traditional gender roles, etc. They took an "indefinite hiatus" in 2006.

Lyric Excerpt: Truth is truer in these days, truth is man-made | If you're here cause you want to be entertained | Please go away

Veruca Salt is another alt rock band that can't be missed (moreso because I live in their hometown of Chicago). Louise Post and Nina Gordon formed the band together in 1993. Both played guitar as well as acting as vocalists. Veruca Salt has changed lineups a bunch of times: Gordon left the band in 1998; their second drummer, Stacy Jones, was also from Letters to Cleo and American Hi-Fi, and they've had a number of other women with them through the years. Currently their bassist is Nicole Fiorentino and their drummer is Kellii Scott. Their songs are always good times. This one is "Volcano Girls", arguably their biggest hit, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I picked it partly because it's got good live shots and...partly because I love the aesthetics and the chemistry between Nina and Louise. If you don't want to dance in your chair to this song you may have an anti-dancing gene.

Lyrics Excerpt: Volcano Girls| we really can't be beat.| Warm us up and watch us blow.| But now and then we fail | and we admit defeat.

For next time we're still going to be (mostly) in the mid-90s (...there's a lot of music in the mid 90s! Especially music I listen to!) and the tangled web of bands who know each other. From there it's onward and upward to the present day.

Any comments? Complaints? Favorite songs or memories of these people?

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