Review: The Julie Ruin – Hit Reset

3.5 OUT OF 5 NUTS!

thejulieruin-hitresetJulie Ruin bandleader Kathleen Hanna is an actual, living rock icon. With the seminal 90’s act Bikini Kill, she revolutionized female-centric hardcore music and more or less created the “riot grrrl” movement. Hanna was also deeply ingrained in the Seattle-area grunge/alternative scene, and there is an apocryphal story that suggests she may have actually coined the phrase “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” 

After Bikini Kill split up, Hanna formed the electro-pop trio Le Tigre, which toned down the punk aspect but doubled down on the radical feminist lyrical ideas. More recently, Hanna has devoted her time to The Julie Ruin, a band that seems to combine both of her old groups into one coherent mass. At least, most of the time. Hit Resetthe group’s sophomore album, is a fast and frenetic affair that occasionally suffers from multiple-personality disorder. The group certainly doesn’t want for influences and ideas. “I Decide” throbs with a pulsing energy that suggests the rhythms of dance punk, while “Be Nice” has more of a droning, kraut-rock feel. Many different styles are attempted on this record, and for every one that doesn’t fully take off ( the closing ballad, “Calverton” doesn’t quite work for me), there’s a new one just around the corner (The girl-group-inspired “Better Not” is one of many highlights).

Ultimately, Kathleen Hanna is a singular voice in both feminism and alternative rock, and her enormous talent will shine through in almost any medium. Hit Reset is a firmly solid affirmation that Hanna’s not out of ideas yet. In fact, the record demonstrates quite the opposite. Despite its shortcomings, the album remains fun and engaging through multiple listens. I think an element of focus would really take The Julie Ruin’s subsequent offerings to new heights.

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However, when you have perfect tracks like “Hello Trust No One,” you realize just how close this group is to greatness. I suppose the future will reveal all, but Hanna’s accrued so much goodwill and credibility by this point that I’m willing to give her a little more time.

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