Saturday, June 26, 2010

Babes in Toyland: Painkillers (1993)

(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )

Babes in Toyland

Hissing, scratching, and spitting, these three riot grrrls come up with fifty-one minutes of outtakes (four), alternate versions ("He's My Thing"), and a live set at CBGB's that medleys ten cuts from Fontanelle and defines their aesthetics as follows: tortured guitars, psychotic toilet-stall poetry ("Tralala was a baldhead girl / Your mind's gone greasy it slides right off me"), and a drummer named Lori Barbero who favors Burundi-style bashing over rock-and-roll timekeeping (probably because she can't keep rock-and-roll time).

On paper it looks promising, kind of like a Nancy Spungen tribute act. And no doubt the Babes mean well. But by disc's end the only detail to emerge from the chaos is the lead-singing of Kat Bjelland and only because she hisses, scratches, and spits under the influence of more raw adrenaline than anyone except maybe Iggy Pop has a right to.

Does the crowd at CBGB's applaud, you ask? A little.

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