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Bikini Kill

You could call them the godmothers of the Riot Grrrl movement. Their music was too abrasive to ever make it into the mainstream, but Bikini Kill's uncompromising combination of lo-fi hi-speed punk and female empowerment sensibilities helped pave the way for such prominent acts as Sleater-Kinney, Hole, and PJ Harvey. They took the trashy self-confident sexuality of '80s feminist rock icons like Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde and made it more violent, more explicit, and most importantly, far more politically charged. In doing so, Bikini Kill became one of the most important independent rock groups of the '90s.

The group's start came in the early '90s at Olympia, Washington's famously liberal Evergreen College, when one time stripper and future group leader Kathleen Hanna teamed with fellow students Kathi Wilcox and Tobi Vail to produce a feminist fanzine called Bikini Kill. Soon the trio recruited guitarist Billy Karren and became a punk rock band, albeit not a very good one initially. Their first recorded efforts, including the Revolution Girl Style Now demo tape and their first Kill Rock Stars effort, a self-titled EP (both from 1991), revealed a band better at making political statements than playing music. Indeed, it was Bikini Kill's incendiary early live shows that first earned them their notoriety. Led by the shrieking, intensely confrontational Hanna, the group was known for getting topless onstage, acknowledging only female audience members, and generally enacting the new feminism that would soon come to define the Riot Grrrl movement.

Soon, though, Bikini Kill's musical prowess would match their powerful political intensity. After a 1993 tour and split seven-inch with English Riot Grrrl act Huggy Bear, Bikini Kill returned to the States and teamed with Joan Jett to produce the three song "New Radio" + 2 seven-inch. Soon after came the brilliant, acclaimed Pussywhipped. This record was perhaps the high point in the band's rollercoaster career: a vitriolic, caustic exercise in feminist punk rock chaos that also managed to be experimental, artistic, and catchy.

By now, nearly all the band's members were involved in side projects (including The Frumpies and The Fakes), and though they played occasionally, they released no material until mid 1995, when they issued a pair of singles, "The Anti Pleasure Dissertation" and "I Like Fucking" b/w "I Hate Danger." A year later, they put out their final LP, Reject All American. Finally, in early 1998, Bikini Kill broke up. A singles collection reprising the band's 1993 and 1995 seven-inches followed soon after.