It started with Shampoo, a band whose bratty attitude and shouty vocals made me want to stay out too late and hitch a lift home on a milk truck. Except the local dairy farm went bankrupt and I wasn’t allowed out too late in case I accidentally walked into a fight between The Greenfaulds Stab Gang and The North Carbrain T-Birds. The budget for my recreation of the iconic Trouble (not the Power Rangers video but the other original version) was never going to be paid in blood, that’s for sure. It didn’t matter. I found other bands to bring me to life in the ’90s New Town into which I was born. Melody Maker put me into collision course with Kenickie, whose At The Club changed everything.
Lauren Laverne might be famous now for being a beloved radio personality, but I’ll always prefer her first incarnation as the lead singer of Kenickie. They were an entirely cool band with punky songs about parties, booze, rides in cars (ooh err) and all sorts of exciting youthful things that the teenage version of me preferred listening to over wonderwalls and houses in the country. Finding Kenickie meant I wanted more. High school was ending for me and I wanted something else that could make me feel the same way as I did when I listened to In The Club. It came in the form of a friend, whose vast CD collection had something called Bikini Kill – The Singles. My friend, being a typical teen, wanted to be the first to discover all the new bands, or turn others onto old bands they might not know about. I gave my friends Juliana Hatfield in return. However, they weren’t quite so eager to accept Alec Empire’s new signing Lolita Storm. Even now it’s difficult to sum up why I found Lolita Storm so utterly essential to that part of my life, because you either ‘get them’ or you don’t. They were EVERYTHING to me. They sounded like Shampoo if Jacqui and Carrie gargled battery acid and spat it at their audience. Their music was harsh, loud, and PUNK. Nhung Napalm, Romy Medina, Jimmy Too Bad and Spex saved my life during a period of intense darkness. Punk brought light into my life, re-energized me, gave me purpose. Then I found Angelica (thanks John Peel), whose mini-album The End Of A Beautiful Career became my soundtrack during many abortive attempts at reading a Kathy Acker novel (I managed in the end).
Eventually, Huggy Bear’s debut album seduced me into sending off some writing to punk ‘zines. They had appeared on The Word, which I watched casually because their main target audience were people like my two sisters. They came back home from illegal raves, bizarrely happy, their eyes big and black. I saw Huggy Bear on The Word. I remember it clearly. They made nothing else matter, if only for a short while. My brother being in prison for another armed robbery? I don’t care, My little brother seeing aliens in his bedroom in the middle of the night? At least my CD player still works! Ho ho ho, isn’t life fun with The Ciccone family?
In this context, it makes sense that my first live gig would be Babes In Toyland. Not the full line-up; it was Kat Bjelland’s replacement line-up with Brigit Coulton from Angelica playing bass. Oh, I swooned in fannish joy. “It’s Brigit from Angelica.” No-one cared. But I did. I cared ardently about such things. I still do, I suppose.
Truthfully, I didn’t always connect to the lyrical content of these groups – but I always connected emotionally. In the environment that I grew up in, these bands, their albums, became body armour against everything else. I get that same feeling from time to time with newer groups like Skinny Girl Diet, Novella, Milk Teeth, and Miss World.
Maybe, just maybe…there’s someone out there waiting for this kind of music.
My kind of music.
Our kind of music?