Academy Fight Songs Sung by Rebel Grrrls

We’ve been hard at work at Reclaim Hosting getting ready for the Fall 2017 semester, and it is officially upon us.  We have setup and rolled out two new shared web hosting servers last week in honor of two groundbreaking punk bands: Mission of Burma and Bikini Kill. We have been working through the 80s hardcore punk scene for a few years now, and Mission of Burma was a terrible oversight, so it was time to fill that gap, and with Bikini Kill we are pushing into the post post-punk movement of the early 90s (our only foray into that territory thus far is our Unwound server).

There are few better punk anthems than “Academy Fight Song,” and if you worked in higher ed for as long as we have, few songs age better than this one. Enjoy it as you start the new semester, and if the emboldened Nazi movement in the US has you worried, remember that Burma were not afraid to link currents of exploitative religion with fascism* in “New Nails,” which is probably better remembered as an early example of a guitar-driven sound/noise that would re-emerge years later with bands like Sonic Youth.

Mission of Burma were in many ways a short-lived dream vision of the future of post-punk. A loud, experimental punk band that explored the lines between anthems and noise, culture and resistance—and unfortunately broke up well before their time. That said, their influence on the post-punk scene is undeniable. Their first two albums Signals, Calls, and Marches (1981) and Vs. (1982) seem like they could have been made yesterday, they both remain fresh, relentless, and relevant. So, if you are new to Mission of Burma and are looking for some music to study by this semester, those to albums will serve you well.

In terms of relevance, few bands in the last 30 years seem more relevant today than Bikini Kill. This Pacific Northwest band exemplified the Riot Grrrl scene of the early 90s, a movement often associated with the beginnings of third generation feminism. Their hard sound was married with in-your-face lyrics attacking patriarchy, misogyny, and racism.  “Rebel Girl” may be there best known work—and the Maoist video of dancing women soldiers may be one of the greatest cultural appropriations of all-time—but there is no shortage of songs that hit you like a punch in the face around all these issues and more. “Feels Blind” slowly builds to a methodical, pressing song that builds to a crescendo of Kathleen Hannah’s attack of a world that has taught her nothing as a woman.  She has had to do it all herself, a vision of punk DIY culture taken to a new level of identity politics. 

In fact, Bikini Kill made a point of creating women-centric shows that carved out much needed space in a male dominated music scene. Front-woman Hannah would confront hecklers at shows†and a long overdue intervention into the punk rock band demographic was finally being charted. Bikini Kill (as well as the Riot Grrrl movement) were not to last much beyond the mid-90s. Bikini Kill disbanded after 7 years, and for many the Riot Grrrl mission of female empowerment was being co-opted and re-branded by engineered acts like the Spice Girls. That said, the music remains, and it’s power and punch is no less impactful as it was in the early 90s, and sadly the calls for gender equality and empowerment have aged very well 25 years later. 

*Even if they did misappropriate a quote from Herman Göring for their other hit anthem “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver.”

† Much in the spirit of Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye, who just so happened to produce their first album.

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2 Responses to Academy Fight Songs Sung by Rebel Grrrls

  1. Grant says:

    If you haven’t had a chance to check out ‘The Punk Singer’ you should seek it out – great story + archival footage from that era.

    • Reverend says:

      I have seen it, and I dug it. Was surprised by the whole Lyme’s Disease subplot though, was not expecting it to be a whodunnit/thriller as to the abrupt end of her career.

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