The self-titled debut by Julie Ruin -- aka Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill -- tweaks the boundaries of the she-artist and her place in patriarchal society. But to pigeonhole Hanna as a feminist is to ignore that she is really an artist, who chooses to express her emotions, uncertainties and beliefs through the universal, primal medium of music. Julie Ruin is a subtle exploration of, and search for, self, an endeavor that translates into an eclectic and fragmented album, which will create tension or annoyance in anyone accustomed to the repetitive, unchallenging pabulum filling our airwaves. This album fits into the rhythmic obscurity found in between radio station frequencies.
Mostly recorded on cassette and mixed by Hanna at home, this disc has a DIY zeitgeist that's unavoidable -- the cut & paste album artwork says it all. This will give amateur musicians the guts to go out and buy a four-track, if Beck hasn't already done that. No more screaming, angry Bikini Kill vocals and furious guitars. Except for hints on "Aerobicide" and "The Punk Singer," Julie Ruin isn't angry, but is instead very clever. Hanna has finally learned to work at the edge of the parameters defined by society without ever crossing the commercial line. Looped guitar and preprogrammed drum tracks, samples and an '80s-style Casio keyboard surround Hanna's sweet Tilt-like voice which comments on many of the distasteful realities that modern culture supports. Just listen to "I Wanna Know What Love Is," a twist on that Foreigner ballad, and tell me you don't agree.