Friday, December 02, 2011

90's Hit Parade #11

Bikini Kill - Double Dare Ya

When I started this project at the beginning of the year, I actually had a different Bikini Kill song in this spot. I was planning to use their most popular song, "Rebel Girl," but after going back and listening, I decided that "Double Dare Ya," the first song on their first cassette, is really the greatest Bikini Kill song. At least, we should call it a draw.

"Double Dare Ya" starts with Kathleen Hannah at full scream, declaring "We demand a revolution, girl-style, NOW!!!" and never relents from there. It's an amazing vocal performance, really. She just throws everything at the microphone: rage, sarcasm, sisterly advice. Very few punk rock bands could summon the righteous fury that she throws out there. I realize that BK were hardly the first female punk band, or even the first to be as explicitly feminist (see, e.g., Crass' Penis Envy album), but when you listen to this you feel like you're hearing something new being given a voice.

I think the chief difference between male and female punk rock is how much the simple act of saying what's on your mind is revolutionary for female punkers. Being "pushy" is such a taboo for women, in ways that it never is for men. It's not that I can't imagine similar lyrics coming from someone like, say, Kevin Seconds, but I don't think they'd really have the same meaning or impact. Yes, dudes are told to conform and shut up by authority, but they also grow up receiving the message that there is virtue in pushing back. Teenage guys live in the conformity factory, teenage girls have it injected under their skin. So when Kathleen yells "Don't you talk out of line/Don't you speak out of turn," even though the sentiment isn't that different from, say, Dead Kennedy's "Hyperactive Child," the latter is mostly targeted to an audience that already knows it and wants an anthem. "Double Dare Ya" is directed toward an audience that is maybe still coming to grips with the idea. So when she mockingly says "Got to listen to what the man says," she's acknowledging a truth that might otherwise go unspoken for many of her fans.

Oh, and the last line of that verse: "Time to make his stomach burn." That's as great a punk rock line as has ever been written. Later, she states the real crux of it all: "You've got to know what they are/Before you can stand up for your rights." Then she repeats the word "rights," for some reason twisting it in a fake cockney accent. It feels like she's winding up. Then, she let's it go, screaming "YES! YOU DO HAVE RIGHTS!" (Or, as the lyric sheet would have it, "You do have them, you know.")

Bonus Beat:

"Rebel Girl" is one of those songs that seems not so much written as pulled out of the air (I believe there's a quote from Kathleen saying pretty much that somewhere). If she hadn't written it, someone else would have. It's just something that had to exist.

Bonus Bonus Beat:

I've fallen off the schedule a bit, as things have gotten crazy around here, but I do intend to get the final 10 entries in this list done before the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve. I'm just not sure it will be on the regular Tuesdays and Fridays schedule: I'm gonna be busy as hell for the next two weeks, then not busy at all for another two weeks, so you might get them 10 days in a row or something. Following that will be the usual 2011 retrospective posts, then some book reviews (I've been reading a lot of non-fiction this year). Then I still have four entries (actually, I'll probably break it into five) in the Best Films of the 00's series. Then, a sigh of relief.


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