My boyfriend, Ian, told me a story a couple weeks ago that made me really sad. He works in a clothing store and it had been really busy with back-to-school shopping and stuff. He was ringing people up non-stop for a couple hours when a teenage boy (he guesstimated between 14-17) dropped a pile of clothes on the counter. Ian proceeded to look at the stuff and ring it up. He said something to the effect of, “Your clothes look like they came from Kurt Cobain’s closet.” At this point, I could totally picture the clothes in my head. The teenager, on the other hand, looked at him blankly and said, “Who?”
I thought, “Steven, you need to do something about this.” So I played some Nirvana for my children. They needed to be educated early. After playing Nirvana, I asked them who their favorite bands or singers were and my youngest (age: 7) immediately said, “Katy Perry and The Wanted.” My mouth went dry. I didn’t say anything because I like Katy Perry too, but … favorite? My 8 year-old told me he was thinking and needed to “think about it some more.” This is when I knew I needed to expose them to more than just what’s on popular radio. Capitalizing on the fact that both of my boys like Katy Perry, I decided to put together a mix of some of my favorite and most important female-fronted bands from the ’90s. These bands, like Kurt Cobain, should not be forgotten and should be listened to often.
I’m going to go ahead and assume everyone that reads this knows who Courtney Love is. Remember when she and her band, Hole, put out an amazing album (Live Through This) just four days after Courtney’s husband (Kurt Cobain) committed suicide? Live Through This is a classic and should be in everyone’s collection.
Live Through This
Veruca Salt was formed in Chicago in by Nina Gordon and Louise Post. The band had only played a few shows when they were signed to a record label and released what would be their most famous single, “Seether.” On the strength of this single and before even releasing their first full-length record, they were asked to tour with Hole. In 1994, they recorded and released their first record, American Thighs, which eventually went gold.
L7 was an all-female grunge band from Los Angeles. Their third album, Bricks Are Heavy, was released in 1992 and contained their biggest and most well-known hit, “Pretend We’re Dead.” I saw them play live at Lollapalooza in 1994. They were an hour late for their performance and when they came on, they were pretty drunk – but they played such an amazing live show, I felt lucky to have seen them.
Bricks Are Heavy
I am partial to bands from Boston, as this indicates, and this is one of my favorites from the ‘90s. The band was fronted by Mary Timony and was known for their sound as much as their lyrics. I would liken it to an all-female game of Dungeons and Dragons, set to music. Timony is now a member of the band Wild Flag.
The Dirt of Luck
Velocity Girl was a Washington, D.C.-based band lead by Sarah Shannon. The band was heavily influenced by pop music and the shoegaze genre. Sarah would often share lead vocals with guitarist Archie Moore. They released three albums and were known for releasing multiple 7” vinyl singles. They broke up in 1996.
Velocity Girl’s Wikipedia
This L.A.-based rock band were known for their catchy songs and layered harmonies. Fronted by Anna Waronker on guitar and vocals, along with sisters Rachel (bass/vocals) and Petra (violin/vocals) and Tony Maxwell on drums. They released three albums before dissolving in 1997.
that dog’s Wikipedia
Totally Crushed Out
Bikini Kill are considered to be the founders of the “riot grrrl” movement. They were formed in Olympia, Washington in 1990 by vocalist and songwriter Kathleen Hanna, guitarist Billy Karren, bassist Kathi Wilcox and drummer Tobi Vail. The band was famous for their radical feminist lyrics as well as their live performances. They disbanded in 1998 and Kathleen Hanna eventually went on to for the band Le Tigre.
The Breeders formed as a side project for Kim Deal and Tanya Donelly. At the time, Kim was still in The Pixies and Tanya was in Throwing Muses. Eventually, The Pixies broke up and Kim recruited her twin sister, Kelley, to replace Tanya (who left to form her own band, Belly). The Breeders recorded and released the album Last Splash in 1994. It went platinum.
Belly was formed in 1991 and led by Tanya Donelly. They released only two albums before dissolving in 1996. Tanya has since recorded a bunch of solo albums.
In the ’90s, there was a second British Invasion of sorts with Radiohead, Blur and Oasis leading the way. There were a slew of other bands (especially female-fronted bands from England) that gained popularity during that time period. Elastica was one of those bands. Elastica formed in 1992 and released their first album in 1995. The lead singer of the band also provided tabloid fodder because she dated the lead singer of Blur, Damon Albarn. Elastica broke up in 2001.
One of my favorite bands from the ’90s (and still a fave) is Tuscadero, an indie rock group from Washington D.C. The band sang nostalgic pop songs about the pop culture of their youths. They had (and I imagine still do) a cult following based on the catchiness of a few of their songs, most notably “Nancy Drew.” They were dropped from their label in 1998 and then broke up in 1999.
The Pink Album
Cibo Matto was a band formed by Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda in New York City in 1994. The two women wrote songs about food on the first album, Viva! La Woman. For their second album, Stereo * Type A, they recruited additional members (including Sean Lennon) and expanded their songwriting. They broke up in 2001 and are rumored to be working on a new album.
Cibo Matto’s Wikipedia
Viva! La Woman
What other female-fronted bands from the ’90s do you wish were around and popular?