When we first received this list of songs back from Petrol Girls frontwoman Ren Aldridge, she had entitled it ‘Ten solid feminist anthems in no particular order (because hierarchies suck)’. She’s right, of course; and this spirit to reject harmful social norms in favour of equality is borne out in the band’s debut album, Talk Of Violence, which takes aim at everything from sexual violence and sexism to capitalism and corporate greed.
So, below, Ren joins us to guide us through the feminist anthems we all need to hear right now. You can hear Petrol Girls’ latest single, Fang, at the bottom of the page.
War On Women - Second Wave Goodbye
‘You’re a relic of the second wave, and we wave goodbye!’
“War On Women just released a music video for this track which might be my favourite off that [self-titled] record. They’re easily one of my favourite bands to watch live. Aside from the genius main riff in this song, I love the way this song dissects some of the problems within the feminist movement: ‘You can’t take a class on class, your doctorate don’t mean shit’ – it’s so vital that feminism remains self-reflective and class is something I think really needs addressing, especially within the feminist music scene, which is totally dominated by white women who went to university, myself included. War On Women are also doing some really vital activism including running workshops at Warped Tour on how to make the scene more inclusive and safer.”
Dream Nails - Do It Yourself
“Totally empowering anthem that also underlines the ethos behind this band. They’re basically the next Bikini Kill! We got to play with them last September at Loud Women Fest, and I’m excited that we’re both playing it again this year, to finish off a tour together at the end of the summer. Liepa and I, along with our friends Sarah and Jess, put them on in Graz (Austria) recently, and we had the best time hanging out – can’t wait to all get in the van!
The band was born out of Sisters Uncut, a UK-based protest movement challenging the cuts to domestic violence services and related issues, such as the movement to shut down Yarl’s Wood detention centre. Sisters Uncut take over empty buildings – ‘how can she leave if she has nowhere to go?’ – organise demos, and campaign in loads of creative ways. The Do It Yourself ethos is key to what makes punk rock political, and realising you can do basic things like fixing a bike or growing food yourself can be a starting point in realising your political agency – and what things you can change on a bigger scale, as Sisters Uncut are doing.”
Amygdala - Rose Buds
“This is a really intense song about child abuse, which furiously challenges the responsibility and blame that society puts on survivors of abuse: ‘We grow up being blamed for our abusers’ actions/Because it is somehow our fault that we are sexually desirable/AS CHILDREN to these sick fucks.‘
I came across this band via an interview they did for Riot Tea Club zine, made by a feminist collective from Vienna. You can get this track and a download of that zine from Riot Tea Club’s Bandcamp. This track is the first on Amygdala’s album Population Control which goes on to rage against/about patriarchy, colourism, inner-misogyny and child sexual abuse.”
G.L.O.S.S. - Outcast Stomp
“I’m aware I put this on every single playlist I’m asked to make, but its probably the greatest song in the world, and that first EP from G.L.O.S.S. completely blew my mind. I’m broken-hearted about them breaking up, but their statement in [punk rock fanzine] Maximum RocknRoll about why brings up a lot of important points about the difficulties in making political music on a growing platform, especially when those politics are inescapable from your identity. This song is perfect groovy hardcore and aggressively affirming for ‘the outcasts, rejects, girls and the queers, for the downtrodden women who have shed their last tears, for the fighters, psychos, freaks and the femmes, for all the transgender ladies in constant transition.’ It should go without saying that feminism must be trans-inclusive.”
Stark - It Moves
“Towards the end of our last tour I was really looking forward to playing with my friend Roo’s band in Nijmegen (NL), as I’d never seen her perform before. But holy shit, I was not prepared. After they played I gave her a massive hug and burst into tears because it was the most powerful live performance I’ve seen, maybe ever. My favourite song of the set was a new one based around the protest chant ‘However I dress/Wherever I go/Yes means yes and no means no’, but as that’s not recorded yet, this song is the first on their self-titled EP. I especially love and identify with the lyric ‘not sure if I’m right but I do know that you are wrong’. So excited for the future of this band!”
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Finisterre - Potential Threat
“I first saw this band a few years ago when I was living in Hamburg and watching a lot of hardcore and crust bands, but they really stood out for me. I was really stoked we got to play with them at Meuchefitz on our last tour, and to hear Manuela speak on stage about bullshit gender roles, and owning your anger. I’ve always been attracted to the anger and brutality of hardcore, especially as an outlet when my anger as a woman is still, even now, treated so differently to that of men. This song is a great affirmation of body autonomy. Its often argued that music can’t be directly political, but the empowerment I feel from this repetition of ‘I have the right’ to say no – without explanation or feeling guilty – is deeply political. Music as a form of empowerment for marginalised groups is fucking political.”
Erica Freas - Please Go Walk In The Rain
”‘Keep breathing, cos girl you’ve been a star on the darkest night/Keep breathing, listen to me, time is on your side/Keep breathing, oh you’re a mountain with a brilliant mind, I guess its just a matter of time.’
This song pulled me through some rough times over the winter, and I’m pretty sure I emotionally developed to this record. Erica’s songs are like those friends that hold your hand through the shit times, and it’s cool to hear songs about women caring for other women, I don’t feel like there’s enough of that.”
Screaming Toenail - Teach Yourself To Fail
“Best band in London! There’s so much in this song, including references to Audre Lorde, and one of the many things I love about Screaming Toenail is how rich their lyrics are; I feel like I learn more every time I listen. I think this idea of understanding failure as essential to growth is fucking vital to feminism, as we can be very unforgiving of ourselves and each other. For me, Screaming Toenail have everything: really creative, interesting and catchy songs, awesome live performances, and absolutely vital political ideas to share. Anti-colonial and queer politics are tied and essential to feminism.”
Open City - Brother I’m Getting Nowhere
“It’s hard to pick a favourite track from this LP, but the section that first struck me was ‘All these words, they don’t mean shit, when all we do is yell at bricks,’ both for the rhythm and expression of frustration at trying to create change when people (mostly men) refuse to engage. The whole record is both agitating and somehow really satisfying as it captures a lot of the conflicting feelings I recognise being part of a political music community, especially as a feminist.”
Downtown Boys - Monstro
“I was majorly late to the party (’bi bilingual political dance sax punk party’, to be precise) with coming across this band, and found them via Spark magazine, which members of the band run. Again it was really hard to pick one song, but I felt like this one highlights a lot of what the band stands for: ’Today we must scream at the top of our lungs that we are brown, we are smart, that nothing that they do can push it away!’ Downtown Boys are a bilingual band so half the lyrics are in Spanish and they’re bringing radical politics to an increasingly-wide platform, as they’ve signed to Sub Pop for the next record due out later this summer. Music can have a huge impact in terms of changing cultures that, left unchallenged, perpetuate racism, sexism and other forms of oppression, and Downtown Boys are making a huge impact. They’ve also totally changed my feelings about saxophone in punk rock.”
Petrol Girls’ debut album, Talk Of Violence, is available now via Bomber Music. Watch the video for single Fang below.