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Bratmobile's riot grrls tackle gender, identity, and George Dubya's politics

Wednesday, Jun 5 2002
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A couple of the smartest tunes on Bratmobile's third full-length, Girls Get Busy, lambaste George Dubya's dubious war on terrorism and his pervasive propaganda campaign to sway the public mind. On "Shop for America" singer Allison Wolfe proffers the peppy ironic anthem, "Kids in America shop for America," while on "United We Don't" she roars with characteristic candor, "We won't fly your flag/ For the rights we never had/ We don't buy all your lies." Though lacking the aggressive wit of punk rabble-rousers Dead Kennedys, the trio's message is just as sincere: Activist attitude matters.

Pioneers in the riot grrl movement of the early '90s, the Brats initially broke up in 1994, then got back together for a one-off show at Oakland's Stork Club in 1999. Realizing what they'd been missing, the warrior women re-formed the group and recorded 2000's Ladies, Women, and Girls for Lookout! Records (which is co-owned by the band's drummer, Molly Neuman).

On Girls Get Busy Bratmobile retains its fiery spirit, tackling gender and identity politics as well as Bush's war. On "Are You a Lady?" Wolfe shouts, "Are you a lady? Are you a girl?/ Tell me who taught you how to behave/ Everything proper and shopping in place." Pitting insurgent lyrics against pared-down, pop-punk grooves, the band's bouncy tunes draw from both the Go-Go's and the Ramones. Along with the thick organ fills of guest Audrey Marrs (ex-Mocket), Erin Smith's rock-solid riffs and Neuman's hard-hitting beats underscore the exigency of Wolfe's words, which ultimately promote a do-it-yourself, agitpop agenda.

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Sam Prestianni

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