Ngaire Ruth reviews bands The Nyx, The Baby Seals, IV and Guttfull, as part of a Loud Women music event
This is a guest post by Ngaire Ruth. Ngaire is a writer and journalist, who worked at Melody Maker for 15 years and was live editor at the girls are for four years. She teaches music and feminist theory at the University of Creative Arts. Below, she reviews Loud Women’s most recent gig night, held at the Veg Bar in Brixton on 2 December
As a young music journalist at the Melody Maker, I had total belief in music making all men equal – including the women. It was always a battle to get unknown women artists or DIY bands into the reviews section, however, while any boy-based band of similar ilk was automatically covered. Both reviewers and readership went on to evolve into the Uncut‘s, Mojo‘s and Q‘s of the world.
At the time, as a feminist and Marxist, I felt beholden to champion any awful noise a bunch of women made on stage, because it was all about positive discrimination, role models and breaking new ground.
The statistics are still important and certainly debatable, but with independent promoters such as London based Loud Women, or Brighton’s Riots Not Diets community, a girl can get used to indie night billings that feature three or four girl-powered bands. This means that an old hack can really start to notice the ones that will melt the hearts of a wider demographic, not just this glorious cranking-up-for-Christmas, converted audience.
Guttfull’s set list rings true of old, reminding us that we still need to shout about misconceptions. Song titles include ‘Tits And Nails’ and ‘Arsehole’ and a cover of Consolidated feat. The Yeastie Girls’ ‘You Suck’. The titles belie the melodies and groove of the band, for whom reference points from the herstory of exciting music come thick and fast, such as X Ray Spex and The Slits (minus the dub and reggae). At points, vocalist Moe sounds like Kathleen Hanna.
It’s a thrill to see small things still matter, evidenced by the reverence with which the next band, IV, carry their many effects pedals off the stage, and the carnivelesque-meets-Instagram attire of the vocalist. Sadly, they are still trying to sound like their male heroes, Muse and The Killers, with generic big guitar swells of rock and pop performed with traditional pomposity and aplomb, and lyrics which evolve around shadowy phrases like “evil things” and threats to “break you down”. It’s all about impact to IV at the moment. I feel the guitarist and his ego are actually trespassing on our brave new world and recognise his performance from the rule book of the traditional rock ‘n’ roll cannon; a place where women don’t get to create meaning and are always referred to as ‘other’.
And then it happens: tunes! Bare-naked tunes. The unknown delights of band The Baby Seals – an electric guitar and bass, with drummer combo, warmed by vocal harmonies and humour. From the start, the songs sweep in like a summer breeze. Think Dum Dum Girls tenacity for songwriting, with an eye for an in-joke (‘My Labia’s Lopsided But I Don’t Mind’) and an alternative viewpoint (‘It’s Not About the Money, Honey’). Here’s a band whose music will shine anywhere, anytime.
Finally, The Nyx appear, who immediately display the fierce intent and confidence it takes to emulate the power riffs of prog rock bands of ages past. Skills and purpose from multiple women and their guitars is empowering, long may it be so, but it’s not groundbreaking anymore. Thankfully, neither is it unusual to see women playing heavy rock guitars with wild abandon. I celebrate the fact that The Nyx will not be restricted to playing the Bulldog Bash as the novelty act, and that they will be taken seriously by fans of the genre, but I leave hastily to chase Baby Seals and make friends.
The image at the top of the page shows a close-up shot of a woman’s hand on the fret of a guitar. It appears to be a shot taken onstage and we can see a black background. Image taken by Renee Chun and shared under a Creative Commons licence.