Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Bikini Kill

  • Bikini Kill [Kill Rock Stars, 1992] A-
  • Pussy Whipped [Kill Rock Stars, 1993] A-
  • Reject All American [Kill Rock Stars, 1996] A-
  • The Singles [Kill Rock Stars, 1998] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Bikini Kill [Kill Rock Stars, 1992]
As usual when a punk band does the trick, the secret isn't just magic. It's ideas, like the way Kathleen Hanna slips into the cockney "roights" on "Double Dare Ya," or the weary "Fine fine Fine fine Fine fine Fine fine" that ends "Suck My Left One," which I'd say is about learning to make something of sexual victimization and then learning that it's still no fun, but I could be wrong, which is why we need this band even if we don't believe racism and eating meat are, and I quote, "the same thing." Poly Styrene discovers ideology. Ideology discovers Poly Styrene. A-

Pussy Whipped [Kill Rock Stars, 1993]
The inspired amateur caterwaul of a thousand zine dreams, more convincing than the boys' version even if it isn't as good as it ought to be or as right on as it thinks it is. By now male hardcore bands feel obliged to at least master the fast four-four, which has its advantages but ends up formulaic. This music scorns all rules--there's no way to prepare for it. The primitive tunes stick like peanut butter to the barbed-wire sound, and while Kathleen Hanna stays calm on her love song "For Tammy Rae," she prefers to break her lyrics down into preverbal emotion--the big-dick grunts of "Sugar," the can't-come screams of "Star Bellied Boy," the scratch-your-eyes-out ululations of "Li'l Red." Ideological though their rage may be, it comes off rooted rather than received or rote, so they scare people. If I were young enough to have girlfriend problems, I might scrounge around for ad feminem putdowns myself. A-

Reject All American [Kill Rock Stars, 1996]
I define punk so that it includes the Replacements and Nirvana and Sleater-Kinney and any other short-fast guitar unit that gives me a thrill. These gals-and-guy are less broad-minded. So here's a '70s punk album as classic as, say, Green Day's--more so if, like these gals-and-guy, you think those guys-and-more-guys are way too fucking broad themselves. The first album got over on spirit. Here Kathleen Hanna's vocals and Bill Karren's guitar add definition, confidence, (let's bite the bullet and call it) technical skill. Also, right, tunes. Plus I always listen up when they get to the slow one about a dead boy genius. A-

The Singles [Kill Rock Stars, 1998]
Nine songs in 18 minutes--one bunch of three entrusted to Joan Jett in 1993 and keyed to the unforgettable anthem "Rebel Girl," the rest vented by the band in 1995 and keyed to the unforgettable title "I Like Fucking." It's striking and impressive the way they ratcheted their popcraft down. With this band, incoherence was always a way of knowledge, imbuing their spew of ideas and feelings with a conviction that made one's confusion about whether they actually liked fucking or not irrelevant. After all, it was probably a little of both--given their intensity level, a lot of both. A-