Overlooked Classics: Babes In Toyland- Spanking Machine

Everybody cites Hole as fine purveyors of pure feminine rage, and rightly so, but for me, Babes In Toyland did it better, and with more eloquent ferocity.

I first heard Dust Cake Boy where else but on John Peel’s peerless late night radio show on Radio 1. His son Tom Ravenscroft recently spoke on 6Music (where he DJs) about the trio babysitting him and how lovely they were. You’d never know from listening to their debut album.

Spanking Machine arrived in 1990 and turned my little world upside down. I’d experienced some trauma as a teenager and this music seemed like a pure distillation of cathartic fury, like being thrown around the room.

Photo by Daniel Carrigon

Kat Bjelland’s vocals were feline; at once a sweet purr and hissing attack. Her guitar and Michelle Leon’s bass felt eviscerating, only compounded by the battering ram drums of Lori Barbero. Women making music this violent, inspired by Lydia Lunch and Sonic Youth… I wanted in immediately. I scribbled their name down and got the vinyl mail order.

Plus, their spat out nursery rhymes, all dolls, nighties and blood, suited Bjelland and her velveteen victoriana. My style was already heading that way as a goth – part dressing up box, part punk. The small town where I grew up apparently did not share my enthusiasm. I once got spat on and attacked for my appearance.

This debut felt truly liberating – anathema to the baggy fashion victims (although there were some great tunes, I liked Happy Mondays and still do) a visceral and thrilling shot of energy when Scotland seemed so bleak and limited.

Thank you Kat, Lori and Michelle for pulling me out of my quotidian rut and reminding me that something else was attainable.

Published by loreleiirvine

I'm a freelance arts monkey. Come see my brain vomit.

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