The 10 best riot grrrl albums, as chosen by Rebecca Lou

a collage of album art

With the release of new single Bitch U Look Good, Danish artist Rebecca Lou brings with her a mission statement to capitalise on the lessons laid down by the riot grrrls before her, and unleash a message of self-confidence and acceptance to people across the land.

“Again and again I was confronted with the fact that people felt the need to comment on my body and it made me feel like crap,” Rebecca tells TeamRock. “Bitch U Look Good is an anthem for self-love and re-claiming your right to feel hot as fuck, no matter the skin you’re in.”

To celebrate the new single, Rebecca (with a little help from her guitarist Joachim) joins us to talk us through the 10 most influential riot grrrl albums as she sees them. You can check out the video for the new single at the bottom of the page.

Bikini Kill - Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (1993)

“My sister Sarah played Rebel Girl for me the first time I heard it. I remember she had a Bikini Kill poster in her apartment I thought was so cool, and the name Bikini Kill was badass. Growing up I listened to a lot of Le Tigre, The Julie Ruin and Bikini Kill. I love Kathleen Hanna. If could pick one person in the world to spend a day with, it would be her. She is such an important figure and a personal trailblazer for so many. My single Bitch U Look Good is also quite inspired by Rebel Girl. The song is about feeling yourself and instead of wanting to be someone else, you find the power in being yourself. It’s really about love of self and being your own empowering role model… Your own rebel girl. Last year I got a Rebel Girl tattoo in tribute to Bikini Kill and Kathleen Hanna. I really can’t explain my admiration for her, I could go on and on. She will go down in history as one of the most important feminist figures of the century.”

Babes In Toyland - Spanking Machine (1990)

“As far as I know, Babes In Toyland never directly associated themselves with the riot grrrl movement themselves, but everyone else did and I think we have a lot to thank them for. They inspired bands like Sonic Youth and Bikini Kill and maybe the whole riot grrrl movement in some way. Kim Gordon loved this band so much, Sonic Youth brought them on tour in 1991. Go on YouTube and watch the documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke. I love Babes in Toyland. Love!”

L7 - Bricks Are Heavy (1992)

“I can’t make this list without mentioning L7. All though they are not a declared riot grrrl band either, their presence informed a lot of the bands that came after them. I remember buying an old poster from the ‘on sale’ pile, the logo with the green skeleton hands. I was 16 years old and just thought it looked really cool. Later, I found out about the band and they totally blew my mind. I saw them live in Denmark for the first time a few years ago on their reunion tour, and my sister and I had the best night. I felt like a teenager again and the band was so self-confident and powerful. I remember being in my teens, one of my older friends telling me about Donita Sparks throwing her used tampon in the crowd, and it was the most insane thing I had ever heard of. It was the ultimate rock‘n’roll myth for me, like Ozzy biting the head off a bat.”

Sleater Kinney - Call The Doctor (1996)

(Joachim, guitars): “Mid-90s. Three girls in a band. Released on Chainsaw Records, a devoted Queercore label. Sure, Call The Doctor ticks all the right riot grrrl boxes. But it does so much more than that, and I think that’s why Sleater-Kinney kind of both sparked and transcended the riot grrrl movement. Call The Doctor is just such an amazing punk rock record. The melodies are great, the anger is right there and the lyrics have this immediacy to them. Wake me up anytime and I’d always pick I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone as the ultimate riot grrrl anthem – playing around and commenting on male rock‘n’roll stereotypes. Singing about being a girl in a band, not because they are girls in a band, but just because they are in a band and just happen to be girls. It’s no big deal. Does that make any sense? Maybe it doesn’t. Then I’ll just leave it to Sleater-Kinney themselves: ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m the queen of rock and roll’.”

Sonic Youth - The Eternal (2008)

(Joachim): Another not-declared riot grrrl act and yet another incredibly strong woman who paved the way for later riot grrrls to come. Kim Gordon, Goddamn. I don’t know why, but to me the bass seems like such a heavy, masculine thing. Deep tones, the posture you naturally find yourself in while playing bass because a bass guitar is so heavy. Kim Gordon just owns that instrument. And then she has the energy to jump in and provide lead vocals. The Eternal in itself isn’t that riot grrrl-y. It’s not even SY’s best record – although it’s pretty great. But this album possesses some great Kim Gordon-fronted songs. Just take the opener, Sacred Trickster. To provide those vocals, that coolness at the age of 55. Oh, and this line is awesome: ‘What’s it like to be a girl in a band? I don’t quite understand’.”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell (2003)

“My first acquaintance with Karen O and Yeah Yeah Yeahs was in the early 2000s, when their single Maps was released on MTV. I really liked the song, it had such a beautiful melancholic vibe. I went down to my local record store and ordered their debut album Fever To Tell (I had to wait two weeks for it to arrive). Karen O was so insane and ugly, and her vocals were amazingly powerful and crazy. Shooting me in the head with all her weird squeals, like one long orgasmic scream. I’d never heard anything like it. Date With The Night became the song me and my girlfriends would listen to before going out in the weekend.

Karen O educated me and made me find power in being ugly and wild, that woman can be that too. That’s the true essence of a riot grrrl and I simply love her for that. Unfortunately, I have never seen the band live. I was supposed to see them at Roskilde Festival in 2009, but I had been smoking so much pot with my friends I had to go home, because I got really sick, so I missed the show. I have never truly forgiven myself for that, and I haven’t smoked pot since.”

The Distillers - Coral Fang (2003)

‘“I don’t play guitar with my vagina’ – Brody Dalle was tired of getting shit for being a female rock musician and those words just set fire to my soul. I instantly fell in love with her. She just didn’t put up with anything. It’s hard for me to pick a favourite album with the Distillers, ‘cause I really love them all, but I think Coral Fang just sums up a time in my life that was really fun for me, spending time a lot of time at the youth house in Copenhagen with my friends and listening to a lot of punk rock. My favourite track from this album is Beat Your Heart Out. The energy of this track is so fucking great, its the perfect love song.”

No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom (1995)

“Gwen Stefani came to me in a time of my life when I really needed her. I was very young and I was a total tomboy. I didn’t really connect with all the girly stuff, I was wearing baggy pants and listening to Limp Bizkit and Rage Against The Machine, all the girls from my class thought I was some kind of a lesbian freak or something. She gave me confidence to be the tomboy and that it was okay. Tragic Kingdom was a huge album for me and Just A Girl was such a powerful song. I love the song for the teasing sarcasm combined with the really powerful point. Truly, it became a big mainstream hit and feminist pop anthem of the late 90s. I don’t really listen to Gwen Stefani anymore, I think we grew apart, but this album will always have sentimental value to me.”

Sourpuss - Sourpuss EP (1995)

“Sourpuss is Brody Dalle’s first band, formed in Melbourne, Australia and the band was the gateway for her breakthrough with The Distillers. It’s clear to spot her influences from the grunge scene. I’ve listened to a lot of Sourpuss lately and just really love everything about Brody Dalle in general.”

The Flytraps - She Freak (2013)

“This punk rock outfit from California is a new thing I’m listening to right now. The Distillers recently announced their reunion tour and The Flytraps are joining them in the States. They only have a couple of songs on Spotify, so find them on YouTube and dig out the videos instead, they have some really cool scrappy DIY stuff going on. For me, the DIY aspect in my art is very important and the riot grrrl movement is all about being creative and DIY. I love to make my own artwork and I’m currently working on a zine with poems, pictures, lyrics to add to my merchandise.”

Rebecca Lou’s new single Bitch U Look Good is out now. Check out the video below.

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