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I count it as a blessing being a teenager in the ’90s. It’s debatable, but the music that was brought to the forefront by corporate-run media was particularly real compared to what is coming out today. As far as predominately female rock bands, one of the first I really liked was the group Hole. Within a few years, in the early to mid ’90s, I discovered bands like Veruca Salt and Shonen Knife, and liked them as much as a lot of the all-guy bands coming out in that era.
Once I was out of high school, I began regularly going to shows in the Chequamegon Bay area. I ended up becoming familiar with the two all-female punk bands in the Northland at that time, The Keep Aways and The Horribles. Actually, they are the only all-female punk bands to exist in this area, to my knowledge. The Keep Aways eventually picked up a male drummer, and The Horribles lasted for around a year before breaking up. Both of these bands were featured in the 2003 compilation album “Chilly Northern Women,” alongside some of the more notable female artists that still play in the Twin Ports to this day. I hung out quite a bit with the South Shore-based group The Horribles, and that gave me exposure to some not-so-mainstream female punk groups like Bikini Kill, L7, and Sleater-Kinney.
Flash forward about a decade to when I first heard about the Minneapolis-based all-female punk group Kitten Forever. While I was in charge of the Reader’s Twin Cities calendar, the name would pop up from time to time, and the band name alone had me intrigued as I’m a cat person. I finally got my hands on a physical copy of their 2013 album “Pressure,” and figured I’d give it a review. The band started in 2006 and this is their second full-length album. They have also released a tape, two EPs, and a 7”.
I smiled as I pulled the CD from its sleeve and saw that it was printed to look like it had been written on with a silver and black sharpie marker. It is (or was) pretty common for punk bands to go DIY and burn a few CDs for a show and just use a sharpie to label them. These days with social media and sites like bandcamp.com, a lot of bands just post up their songs online rather than make the investment to have CDs professionally made or spend the time burning CDs.
The album sticks close to a lot of older hardcore punk in that none of the tracks are much longer than two minutes long. The first track, “Get Loud,” uniquely introduces the album in that it’s nothing but percussion and “cheerleader chant” type vocals that are cleverly layered. It clocks in at 42 seconds, short and sweet. While simple, it sets the tone of the energy that really doesn’t stop on the album.
Raw, simple, and effective punk rock is the name of the game with this album. Don’t expect fancy guitar shredding, because the instruments seem to be just a viciously played distorted bass and drums that go from holding it down to thrashy and intense. To make a comparison, it has a definite feel of Bikini Kill, but perhaps more stripped down.
The vocals and lyrics are bratty and infused with feminist messages, which is pretty typical for the sub-genre of punk known as “Riot Grrrl.” Notes that came with the album state, “Pressure lyrics boldly address issues of representation, romance, bodies, growing up and what it means to be woman identified in a punk rock music scene.” The lyrics stay less angry than the Minneapolis female hardcore crust-punk group Garmonbozia, and not as overtly sexual as some Bikini Kill songs.
Whether or not someone finds this album good depends on whether they enjoy punk rock in the first place. I won’t say that Kitten Forever has created a new or unique sound on this album, but they have represented this style of music incredibly. It’s fun and high-energy, and holds strictly to raw punk rock. The reason a band and an album like this are important for the area is that modern interpretations of Riot Grrrl and straight-up punk are becoming more rare and hard to find. If I had a theory about why this is, look back to the beginning of this write-up. The next generation of young bands did not grow up when this type of music was at its peak, so unless someone found their older brother or sister’s tape collection or went out of their way to delve into early ’90s punk, influences will change, and so will styles of music. Kitten Forever plans to play in the Twin Ports in the late spring or early summer this year.