Sunday, August 15, 2010

Faye's history of lady instrumentalists [part three: Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, Paz Lenchantin, Bif Naked, The Distillers]

Hi guys! For those of you who've been reading along, welcome back! For those just "tuning in", we've been doing an (incomplete) history of female instrumentalists, starting with the 70s and working up (part one, part two).

Let's dive right in!

Every bassist the Smashing Pumpkins have ever had has been a woman, most famously D'Arcy Wretzky, who was with the band from its inception in 1988 until 1999. She was followed by Melissa Auf Der Maur until their breakup in 2000. Ginger Pooley and Nicole Fiorentino (also recently in Veruca Salt) have toured with the band since it reformed. The Smashing Pumpkins' music - although shifting in style - is pretty epic in scope, influenced somewhat by arena rock and shoegaze, with a lot of overdubbing and an emphasis on atmospherics. Many bands since have cited them as an inspiration. (Side note, this video is a semi-stripped down version of Cherub Rock, but it's also part of a great playlist where you can hear a lot of their songs in their album versions.)

Lyrics Excerpt: Freak out | And give in| Doesn't matter what you believe in | Stay cool | And be somebody's fool this year | 'cause they know | Who is righteous, what is bold | So I'm told

Melissa Auf der Maur brings us to another important band of the era - Hole, for whom she played bass from 1994-1999. Although often grouped in with grunge (or sometimes riot grrrl because of their politics), the band was initially heavily influenced by punk, noise rock, and no-wave: intentionally abrasive, and lyrically often nihilistic and provoking or at least questioning of society. Courtney Love, who has been the only continuous member of Hole, obviously sings, but she also plays guitar as well. A ton of women (eight in total) have been members of Hole over the years as instrumentalists, (Trivia: Kim Gordon produced their first album, Pretty on the Inside.)

Hole have a thousand songs worth listening to, but I actually picked a cover they did of the Fleetwood Mac song Gold Dust Woman -- shout out to another band with female instrumentalists.

Lyrics Excerpt: Rock on -- gold dust woman| Take your silver spoon | And dig your grave | One less challenge | Pick your path and I'll pray

Paz Lenchantin is an enormously talented pianist, violinist, bassist and vocalist who has been in a ton of bands, but most notably A Perfect Circle. She has been in a number of other projects: one was a shortlived all-female supergroup with Melissa Auf der Maur, Samantha Maloney (also of Hole at one time), Radio Sloan as well as Lisa Leveridge, Dvin Kirakosian, and Emilie Autumn, called The Chelsea, which seems to have taken on the form of Courtney Love's companion band for a few shows.

(The live version of Judith by A Perfect Circle that I picked to show off her skills is definitely a good one, but it's not as COOL as their official video, in which Lenchantin takes exactly the time she has during the guitar breakdown to braid her hair and then get back to being a rock star.)

Lyrics Excerpt: Pray to your Christ, to your God | Never taste of the fruit, never stray, never break, never | choke on a lie even though he's the one who | did this to you, you never thought to question "Why?"

Bif Naked is a singer who also often plays guitar and bass on her albums (though not on tour). She is AWESOME - she's also a spoken word poet, vegan, straight edge, martial artist, and she blogs about politics, recovering from breast cancer and other things on her website (linked above). It's ridiculously hard to find good vids of her that aren't just slideshows of her face - this one's nabbed from a TV show so it skips partway through.

Lyrics Excerpt: Just a moment of weakness | I should examine my head! | Just a moment of weakness | I never meant a word I said

And last but not least: Brody Dalle was the frontwoman of LA punk band The Distillers, formed in 1998 (it's hard to believe that's 12 years ago now). Although they went through a number of lineup changes (other female members included guitarist Rose "Casper" Mazzola and bassist Kim Chi), Dalle was responsible for writing/co-writing every song on the band's three albums as well as lead guitar and vocals. Her voice is raw and a bit love-it-or-hate-it, but if you're into oldschool female-fronted punk -- or you never considered being into oldschool female-fronted punk -- they're well worth a listen. Plus they write songs about suffragettes! She's currently fronting the band Spinnerette.

Watch out for her demanding a female mosh pit for the first few seconds of this video.

Lyrics Excerpt: Oh, it's set in 1848 | in the crush of New York State | and the thing about destiny | is it never ever makes mistakes

Here's a good transition into next week, which takes us more into the present day (with a few exceptions) with a motley group of hair metal, heavy metal, industrial/goth, and electro-dance-pop artists, all of whom are pretty sweet. Anyone I'm missing? Let me know!


  1. I have either heard of, or heard of, heard, and love every single one of these talented ladies! Thanks for the Bif video, too - her music has a special place in my teenage heart.

  2. I'm glad! This wasn't the most "out there" of the series, but it is one of the most nostalgic (at least for me, and it seems like for you too :D).


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