Posted by Michael Happy on October 1st, 2011
Hole, “Violet” (Highly recommended live 1994 SNL performance here)
Here is the post I promised in yesterday’s “Frye and Popular Culture.”
Compiling this selection of video, it became apparent that it is impossible not to feature prominently the videos from Hole‘s first wide-release album, Live Through This. Three of them are here, and they’re all worth seeing, especially Violet, which may be the most powerfully realized video riot grrrl at its height produced. But there’s also music, video, and live footage from highly regarded cult bands that never broke into the mainstream on anywhere near the same scale: Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear, 7 Year Bitch, Babes in Toyland, Bratmobile, L7, Sleater-Kinney, and Tribe 8.
If I can advocate for must-see work here besides Hole: Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear (although not for the faint of heart), 7 Year Bitch, and Babes in Toyland.
Hole, “Doll Parts”
Hole, “Miss World”
Bikini Kill, “I Like Fucking”
Bikini Kill, “Suck My Left One” (Live, 1993). This is terrific footage, but the sound could be a little better. However, it needs to be seen because it really captures the mood of the time, especially in the band’s wonderfully rendered onstage performance. This is an excerpt from the U.K. documentary, Getting Close to Nothing.
Huggy Bear, “Her Jazz” (Live on U.K.’s Channel 4)
7 Year Bitch, “M.I.A.”
Babes in Toyland, “He’s My Thing”
Bratmobile (Live set, 1993)
L7, “Pretend We’re Dead” (Live on Letterman, 1992)
Sleater-Kinney, “Jumpers” (Live on Letterman, 1994)
Tribe 8, “Femme Bitch Top”
Bringing it all the way round: at the tail end of the riot grrrl era in 1997, here was Hole again providing a glamorized power pop: it’s warm and inviting but still just abrasive enough at the edges. This video, in fact, could arguably signal the very end of the line (the terms of reference are no longer Olympia but Malibu; even so, despite the designer dresses and top-of-the-line hollow-body guitars, the world appears to be spontaneously combusting). At this point, rock begins its slow decline as the primary mainstream musical influence, with hip-hop on one side and pop on the other. In this video, and the video for “Celebrity Skin,” Courtney Love anticipates by about a year the sudden rise of a quick succession of female pop artists, who may now exert more cultural influence than their male counterparts. That is a first, and it may be in part because riot grrrls kicked a Doc Martens through the glass ceiling.