Tag Archives: the pixies

Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock…Grrrls of the 90s

22 Mar

Ah, alas, we have arrived at the 90s, a time period rife with fierce female energy and feminine manifestos lamenting bad break-ups and their rightful place in a world dominated by men. It was a decade that featured a sexy pool of female talent; females who weren’t going to sit quietly in a corner looking frail and weepy. No, these women weren’t going to take men’s shit any longer, in fact, they were going to sing about the shit their men put them through, immortalizing their feminist woes and the men who’d done them wrong forever in song.


Click to watch “You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette – Morissette stood apart from the grunge movement that consumed the whole of the 90s, and, truth be told, she stood apart from everyone, claiming her own corner of the music industry with Jagged Little Pill and the hell-hath-no-fury anthem, “You Oughta Know,” an angst-ridden confessional that is lyrically courageous, fierce, expository and vulnerable. She became the radio-friendly poster girl for angry young women, leading the way for many of the ladies listed here to sing the same.


Click to watch “Stupid Girl”

Shirley Manson – Hottie? Check. Sexy accent? Check. Perfect blend of delicate songbird and badass frontwoman? Double, triple check. Dressed in the uniform of the 90s: melancholy pout, short skirts, fishnets and combat boots, Shirley Manson played the part of Misery Chick well as singer for the band Garbage. She’s made headlines recently showing her supreme support for Record Store Day, saying, “(Record Store Day) promotes the belief that time spent exploring a small, lovingly curated record store, discovering artists, music and ideas can arm you against anything that ever threatens to overwhelm or engulf you.”

nina and louise

Click to watch Veruca Salt’s “Shutterbug”

Veruca Salt – Besties Louise Post and Nina Gordon would stand side by side belting out songs like “Seether” and “Volcano Girl” onstage every night and then retreat to their hotel rooms where the pair would talk for hours on the phone. A falling out between the two fractured the group, reducing Veruca Salt to a tragic platonic love story and silencing, in my eyes, one of the best bands to come out of the 90s (see Eight Arms to Hold You).

polly jean2

Click to watch “Rid of Me”

PJ Harvey – While “Down by the Water” and Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea are more my speed, Harvey’s Rid of Me is a stand-out. Adding to the list of crazy ex-girlfriend albums (see Alanis Morissette and Liz Phair), her pure, unadulterated fury and unabashed raw power is spilled across this Steve Albini-produced gemstone.


Click to watch “Zombie”

Dolores O’Riordan – As frontwoman for the Cranberries, O’Riordan’s aggro-Irish lilt cuts like glass, and her pixie-esque frame only adds to the wonderment that such a big sound can come out of such a tiny person.


Click to watch “I’m Just a Girl”

Gwen Stefani – Cloaked in a cutesy vocal trill and pseudo-bashful, eyelash-batting stare, Gwen Stefani asked to “take this pink ribbon off my eyes” in the irony heavy, “I’m Just a Girl.” As a result, she removed the pink ribbon from many women’s eyes. Stefani stood far apart from her grunge girl counterparts, fronting the ska-heavy No Doubt, but she still showed lyrical sister solidarity and staying power, going on to become a fashion icon and designer, successful solo artist and one in a string of celebrity singers whose husbands were referred to as Mr. (Insert Female Moniker), with the honor for Mr. Gwen Stefani going to hottie rocker, Gavin Rossdale.


Click to watch Hole’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman”


Hole – Courtney Love may be the train wreck everyone can’t turn away from, but she’s got her toehold in music history, nonetheless, and it’s firmly rooted in the 90s. As frontwoman for the 75% female band Hole (alongside equally as kick-ass  rockers, if not more so, Melissa Auf der Maur and Patty Shemel), Love is considered by some to be a modern day Yoko Ono, but she’s also a no-holds-barred rock chick who gave an outside voice to every woman’s inner dialogue and spawned a legion of girls dressed as broken dolls just like her.

bikini kill

Click to watch “Rebel Girl”

Bikini Kill – Responsible for spawning the riot grrrl, movement, Bikini Kill were a punk rock feminist quartet with Runaways leanings, which can be heard all over the Joan Jett produced “Rebel Girl.” Lead vocalist Kathleen Hanna is married to a Beastie (Ad-Rock), dated Dave Grohl, started Riot Grrrl, a fanzine that spawned the movement of the same name, and is the person who scribbled “Smells like Teen Spirit” on Kurt Cobain’s wall. I don’t really need to say what came of that, do I?


Click to watch “Pretend We’re Dead”

L7 – L7 formed in the 80s but were easily rolled into the fold of the grunge movement alongside other female-heavy acts Hole and Bikini Kill. Although their act was full of tampon flinging and dropping trough on national TV, the ladies of L7 ultimately wielded their power for good and started Rock for Choice, a pro-choice organization.

liz phair2

Click to watch “Supernova”

Liz Phair – Gender bender Liz Phair wasn’t afraid to tackle taboo topics and sing about subject matter once deemed unbecoming of a lady to talk about. Her Exile in Guyville is like a raw nerve stroke of genius. Another post-break-up nugget, Guyville was also a response to the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, each song on Guyville meant to parallel each track on the famous Stones album.


Click here to watch “My Favorite Mistake”

Sheryl Crow – A dirty-hot vibe, growling rasp, and impressive cadre of  collaborations, the former back-up singer for the King of Pop decided to forgo the angry young woman route traveled by so many of the ladies listed here and struck a balance between standing her ground and exposing her soft underbelly in a, musically, very straightforward way. Instead of screaming about how her man had done her wrong, Crow begged the question, “Are you strong enough to be my man?”

kim deal 2

Click to watch the Breeders’ “Cannonball”

Kim Deal – For the first two Pixies’ albums, bassist Kim Deal went by Mrs. John Murphy, a name chosen as an ironic feminist joke. Her stint as Mrs. John Murphy may have put her on the map, but “Cannonball” off the second album Last Splash by the Breeders, the band she started with twin sister, Kelley, shot her into the mainstream. 


The Joy Formidable are a Formidable Force to Be Reckoned With

15 Sep

Rock acts have been sorely absent from the music charts of late, and North Wales band the Joy Formidable sounds worthy of a place at the table. Their full length debut, The Big Roar, is a nineties throwback, but in more of a refreshing homage rather than a carbon copy kind of way. The Big Roar mixes fuzzy guitar riffs and heavy, heart thumping drum beats with layers of deliberate distortion. Songs like “A Heavy Abacus,” “Austere” and “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” have infiltrated indie rock airwaves, standing out with their pop/rock hybrid of hooks to the tune of singer Ritzy Bryan’s ethereal yet driving voice. Simply put: they are a big deliciously blurry sound of grungey rock goodness, and they are breathing life into a genre that has been stale for quite some time.

Their influences are varied, drawing from many different genres, past and present, and not settling on any one, lending even more so to their timeless sound. Growing up, bassist Rhydian Dafydd tended towards Hendrix and other artists of the 60s and 70s, but says, “It was all really just a gateway to good and bad music, in my eyes. I’m not drawn to any specific genre. I enjoy anything with a story and a unique voice and, ultimately, a soul is good enough for me.”

Same goes for the other members of the band. Dafydd says singer/guitarist Bryan was “spoiled for choice” by her mom and dad’s massive record collection. At an early age, she was exposed to Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and other great songwriters like Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.  “I’m sure that had a big effect on our songs being very lyrically driven,” he says. Drummer Matt Thomas’ taste is also varied, spanning the spectrum from jazz to metal with some Frank Zappa in between.

For Dafydd, it all comes back to good and bad music. “That’s why an album for us is a very dynamic piece of work,” he says. “I don’t want to hear the same sound or same structures twelve times on an album. I want to take you on a journey.”

And the Joy Formidable deliver. These varied musical tastes come together in a post-grunge sound that has traces of the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Garbage and Smashing Pumpkins. Bryan only plunges the bands’ sounded deeper into the 90s, drawing parallels to grunge girls PJ Harvey and Louise Post and Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt. Even Bryan’s look channels Courtney Love with her updated baby doll dresses, albeit Bryan looks the wholesome, impish anti-thesis to Love’s heroin chic hot mess.

So it is easy to see why Dave Grohl tapped the band to open for the Foo Fighters this fall, alongside Social Distortion. “It’s a kind of nice story because it seemed to come around quite naturally,” Dafydd says. While driving one day, Grohl heard the band’s “Whirring” but didn’t catch the name of the band. Trying to remember the tune in his head all the way home, Grohl figured it out, tracked them down, and since then, the Joy Formidable has played several shows with the Foos, including a secret show at Lollapalooza and some dates in the UK.

Dafydd confirms what so many others are already saying about Grohl and the Foo Fighters being the nicest guys in rock & roll, “We had a blast. They’re very down to earth and still know what’s important about it all and that’s the music,” he says. “Sometimes you get people with motives or with weird sort of egos and competition. They seem genuine, and that means a lot.”

The Joy Formidable came together in its most recent incarnation three and a half years ago. Bryan and Dafydd are childhood friends and reconnected musically in their hometown after a string of bad experiences, “We got back into writing music for the right reasons. We started enjoying and losing ourselves in the music, which is what is important.” They found a drummer. They rehearsed. That drummer didn’t work out. They found Thomas, and since he joined two and a half years ago, Dafydd says, “It’s been non-stop gigging.”

In addition to being childhood friends, Bryan and Dafydd are also a couple.  Dafydd says the only challenge for them in that respect is to find alone time because the band and the music is so all-consuming but says that was a choice the two made early on. “We’re quite lucky in that, first and foremost, the music is what brought us together,” he says. “We had that before we even became a couple.” If anything, he says it adds to the natural dynamic and chemistry necessary in a songwriting partnership. As with everything else, Bryan and Dafydd see it as a blessing that they get to travel this journey together.

“It’s a really beautiful thing that we’ve found it together. Dynamic in a band is a very precious thing,” he says.  He cites chemistry as a crucial element in a band because of the amount of time spent together, and says, “We feel like we’ve got that ultimately. When we get onstage, that’s where it all comes into its own, and we really lose ourselves. That’s where the beauty and the truth comes out.”

That beauty and truth is ever present on their journey, and there is a moment in every day that Dafydd is well aware that he and his bandmates are living a life many only dream of, “It’s not a job at the end of the day,” Dafydd says, “It’s a lifestyle, and it’s a privilege to be able to give value to our creative outlets in a way that it connects with other people. We don’t take any of it for granted.”

Dafydd, Bryan and Thomas have been travelling the festival circuit for a large part of the last year, and the rest of 2011 includes another month or so of festivals before a headlining tour in the UK. Then they’re back in the US for the Foo Fighters’ dates and even more shows follow after that. Dafydd wouldn’t have it any other way, in fact, he revels in the travel and touring to help generate the spark of creativity.

The variety of travel affords the band with the opportunity and freedom to get ideas down, collaborate and feel inspired, “It’s a great time to be feeling these things and seeing these things and meeting new people and seeing the world in that different light.” He adds, “To challenge yourself as a songwriter, you have to be able to put yourself in different contexts.”

The band arrives in Philadelphia Friday, September 23 for the Popped! Music Festival at FDR Park and then again for their date with the Foo Fighters at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, November 10. They’ve been to the states several times, staying mostly along the east and west coastlines, and Dafydd knows they’ve got some ground to cover in between, “There’s still some nooks and crannies, but we’ll get there.” No doubt about that: the Joy Formidable are well on their way.

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