Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Julie Ruin

  • Julie Ruin [Kill Rock Stars, 1998] B-
  • Hit Reset [Hardly Art, 2016] A-

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Julie Ruin [Kill Rock Stars, 1998]
"What would `L'Ecriture Feminine' sound like as music?" the once and future Kathleen Hanna asked herself, and if this is the answer we're in trouble. It sounds like Calvin Johnson prattle, it sounds like she needs all that sound equipment she can't afford, it sounds like she took her bat and went home. It's fine to reject confessional for narrative if you have some fictional craft, fine to let machines do the playing if you can figure out how to make them sing, but so far Hanna doesn't and hasn't. Instead she takes the obscure rants that were so compelling at Bikini Kill decibels and murmurs them into her cheap mike at two in the morning, if we're lucky to one of the simple tunes that provide meaning in a band context and relief in this. "I don't expect people to like it or anything," she told some zine, and here's hoping they don't. She's 29, and she needs to move on. B-

Hit Reset [Hardly Art, 2016]
After years of illness, 47-year-old Kathleen Hanna still has the same girlish voice she did with Bikini Kill at 21, small and cute. But unlike Astrud Gilberto, say, she's tended to weaponize it. Le Tigre had a sisterly ebullience sometimes, and on her 2013 Julie Ruin comeback she sounded so glad to be alive everything else was secondary. But here she's grrrlish once again, proudly indulging her inner brat as she and her crack electropunk band launch putdown after empowering putdown at a fearsome dad, a pickup creep, a bullshitting promoter, a pushy fan, a pushier friend, a troll, and assorted conversationalists. Since the most painful and effective of these seems to implore a lifemate "Let Me Go," it's a relief when the enigmatic finale wonders quietly what made her think she could fly and then thanks the unspecified person who gave her the courage to try. A-