Thursday, January 7, 2010

Julie Ruin

Julie Ruin
Olympia, 1997
Post-Riot Grrrl

Julie Ruin was the alias of Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill (and later Le Tigre) for a period of time starting in 1997. She released one self-titled album under this name on Kill Rock Stars. The music is sensational- keyboards, samples, bedroom soul, teenage boredom, treble-heavy guitar, and Valley Girl vocals forever lost in the '80's. Shulamith Firestone as Ray Davies. This record, well really, this whole persona was really exciting to me when she first came out and it was so mysterious. To me it was more than just music and more than just a performer, it was an identity. After the whirlwind maelstrom that was Bikini Kill, Julie Ruin is in turn warm, sweet, playful, and as DIY as any 16 year old girl's first 'zine. I remember having a hard time believing that something this cool and this exciting could be real. I swear I read the Kill Rock Stars paper catalog over and over, past the Mary Lou Lords and the Miranda Julys and the Team Dresches to make sure it was really there. The catalog description went like this: Kathleen Hanna drags the Casio up from the basement & plugs it straight into your gut: "You make me wanna go away--you make me wanna CROCHET!" The world of Julie Ruin brings to mind Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills, Feminist Theory, strawberry ice cream, Lisa Frank, and Starpeace. Kathleen Hanna later guested on a track by Internal/External in 2000 called Stepping Up To The Mic. Her lyrics on this song seem to explain the creation of Julie Ruin as something of a necessity. After spending years being an icon and a spokesperson for what everyone else wanted her to be, Julie Ruin was finally just for her.

I felt like I was in the process of continuing
Some kind of weird historical thing was overtaking me
Like I was Patsy Cline or Queen Latifah
Or somebody really important
And I realized that there was no time like now
And I didn't care if I was scared.

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