The Origins of the Riot Grrrl Ethos

Ten Albums: Facebook Challenge

A notification came up on my Facebook page that I had been nominated by my cousin, Joanne, to complete a 10 Favourite Albums Challenge. She knows I'm a music nut and it was almost guaranteed that I would pick up this challenge. What I didn't anticipate was how seriously I would take it. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this. Listening through the albums to make sure that they are worthy of my top 10. I mean, I've listened to a lot of albums in my time and own a very large amount of them on vinyl, cassette, CD, mini-disc and mp3 so this was going to be hard to narrow down. Here's what happened. 

Day 1 or 10 Appetite for Destruction. Guns N Roses.  

I started at the beginning, mentally flicking through my vinyl record collection from 1990.... the first decent album I owned and this was what I had to say about it: "Appetite for Destruction. Guns N Roses. Because it was my first metal album and my first metal gig." It was. The band was the first that made me sit up and listen. My sister and I worked out how to set the timer on my mum and dad's VCR and recorded a concert of theirs at The Ritz that was showing way past our bedtime. My mum finally allowed me to go and see them at Wembley Stadium only if she could tag along to, she's always been a bit of a metal fan. 

Day 2 of 10 Babes in Toyland, Fontanelle. 

Day 2 and I pick my all-time favourite riot grrrl album. "Because its good to shout loudly and scream sometimes too!", I commented, even though the 'rules' of the challenge told us that we didn't need to explain. Me, post music and not explain? Are you kidding? This album brings back so many ace memories. I was inspired by Maureen Herman to pick up a bass and play. I soon found that I could scream as loud as Kat too and by 1993 was covering Bruise Violet in the band my sis and I started. I screamed so loudly one night at a gig that glasses were dropped, I guess they didn't expect so much noise to come from those two pretty little girls who had been tuning up their cute guitars ten minutes ago. 

Day 3 of 10 Alice in Chains - Dirt.  

I refrained from 'explaining' this one in my post, but a comment from an old friend below reminded me of the days I'd spent listening to this record sat on his living room floor in an industrial town in the north of England, trapped somewhere on the commuter belt between Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool. It was there that I learnt the true meaning of the word punk and when I began to understand where the Seattle grungers got their inspiration from as I watched the rain lashing on the window outside. They were good times, we partied and listened to records and fell in and out of love and smoked and drank too much. It was punk and it was life and it was fun. This record is my personal portal to the 90s, to a simpler time, when people would connect face to face and you could just knock on someone's door to see if they fancied hanging out for the afternoon, the whole day or even the entire weekend. Before life got infiltrated by technology, social media, and when virtually no one carried a camera in their back pocket, thank goodness! 

Day 4 of 10 Fausto Taranto - El Reflejo del Espanto  

Back to now, the most modern album I have featured on my list and the most recent concert I've been to at La Cochera Cabaret in Malaga. I commented: "Because you can't go wrong with flamenco metal, they were amazing when I saw them two weeks ago and I got to meet Ihmaele, their rather 'nice on the eyes' lead vocalist!!!" But that's not all. However, I won't go on about them here. You can read my review of their music on my other post.

Day 5 of 10 "Amy Winehouse Back to Black. 

"Because we've all cried for someone on the kitchen floor." We have and with one lyric, this woman can floor me. She reaches deep inside of me with her sultry voice and pulls out every part of the tormented side of my soul that I try to hide and displays it to me on a wooden chopping board. She encaptures the pain of heartbreak, the fear of loving too much, the need to be desired, the sinking belly drop of rejection. A beautiful soul, taken too soon, but, to almost quote Don Mclean, "I could've told you Amy, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you". 

Day 6 of 10 Stone Temple Pilots- Purple  

"When I first got this album, my friend Eddie told me to stop listening to it so much because I'd end up hating it. Well, Eddie, I'm still listening to this one to death, I wore out the first tape I got it on, but still love it as much as the first time I heard it." And again in the comments, I got taken back through my personal portal to an afternoon listening to records in APS records, better known back then as Tony's. Tony was the original Spotify, but three dimensional. He always had in the latest obscure record by the newest, truest and craziest bands. He would stand behind the counter holding a rollie between his fingers, his hands covered by blue fingerless gloves. He'd put record after record on for us as we flicked through the masses of vinyl that he had stacked in shelves and boxes around the place, never complaining, on the contrary, he enjoyed listening to the music as much as we did. He didn't seem to mind if we bought one or not at the end of the day but buzzed off the afternoon spent discovering new music with us. I didn't buy this album from him, sorry Tony, I think a friend recorded it onto a tape for me. A tape that got worn out in my walkman. I eventually picked up a CD copy of the album when I was working at HMV in the late nineties. It's good solid grunge music. It's dark, it's existential, it rides on the wave of positivism that was abundant towards the end of the 20th C. It also contains the weirdest most romantic line of all time.
"Pick a song and sing a yellow nectarine Take a bath I'll drink the water that you leave If you should die before me ask if you could bring a friend Pick a flower hold your breath and drift away" Just me? Ok.... Moving on. 
Day 7 of 10 Sonic Youth - Dirty  

Again, an iconic band of the 1990s. Kim and Thurston were the god and goddess of grunge, the king and queen of punk, and as I looked into my unknown future, I wanted to be her by the time I was 40 and I wanted to be with someone as talented as him. The album takes the listener on a journey, a walk through sexual politics, existential politics, political politics and lands you in an emotional frenzy by the time you hear Thurston's guitar riff on Sugar Cane. Chapel Hill is my favourite track on the whole album and the lyrics, shown below, epitomise how I feel when I listen to any of my records from my favourite decade.

"The hair in the hole in my head Too bad the scene is dead Memories in the shadow Back in time again" 
Day 8 of 10. Of Mice and Men - Restoring Force.  
"Since music became digitised, the idea of an 'album' has been hard to find, with many bands focussing their efforts on the hit single rather than putting together 10+ tracks that work together, that take you on a journey.... this album, from 2014 did this for me. I don't think the band are as good since Austin Carlisle left due to ill health... each time he sang (or screamed) spinal fluid was actually leaking into his brain. The doctors told him to stop singing or die... he went to Costa Rica and found God. This record takes the 1990s idea of an album and applies it to the digital age, in my humble opinion, at least. It also helped me through a really tough year and reminded me who I really was when faced with people and situations that were trying to change me. It kept me grounded." Need I say any more? 

Day 9 of 10 Estopa - Estopa  
Ok, so thanks to this album, with its rumba/rock fusion I seriously improved my Spanish back in 2000/2001. This album has the first songs that I sang along to in a foreign tongue and Estopa's headliner at the Olympic Stadium in Seville was the first gig I went to in Spain. It was a very hot summer night and I'd never been to an outdoor gig before in summer to which I didn't have to take a plastic poncho and wellies, just in case of rain! I love the cheeky cheesiness of these tunes. Only Estopa can get away with half of the things that they get away with. In Spain, they are massive, but unless you've lived there or in a Spanish speaking country, you've probably never heard of them. Despite them being un poco cani, as the Spanish would say, I'll never forget my first time nailing the sing along to this record while I danced around some random discoteca with a group of Erasmus students in Seville, cubata in hand..... "Yo me parto la camisa... como Camaron".. 
Day 10 of 10 Die Cheerleader - Filth by Association.  
One of the most underrated albums of the 1990s. This riot grrrl group was mint. Tight through and through. Full-on cross vocals and brilliant lyrics. Riot grrrl verging on punk, verging on metal. These girls rocked harder than most bands. If you've never heard them, start off with Saturation ... There were so many that nearly made it to my top ten.... too many to mention and explain. Maybe I'll do that in another post later. If you asked me next week to do the same challenge I might even swap a few in and take a few out. I'm fickle. My music taste changes with the day, the mood, the amount of sunshine I've seen and the emotions I feel. This list pretty much sums up those 'big' albums that influenced my life, but I can't help but also wonder why I've not included smaller bands... maybe that too can be another list. Keep reading. Keep sharing. Keep listening, loud. Stephanie 
(C) Stephanie Burgess-Arteaga, 2018