Genre Hopping: Female-fronted pioneers

The women of garage rock, grunge pop and indie have been busy. Chris Parkin celebrates a slew of tremendous new vinyl releases.

There’s only one rule concerning album announcements: don’t do it on the same day that Sleater-Kinney reveal to the world they’re recording a new album with Annie Clark (aka St Vincent). At least that’s the “note-to-self” that Mary Timony – Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss’s bandmate in riot grrrl “supergroup” Wild Flag – should jot down after her news of Ex Hex’s first LP in five years was all but vaporised.

The return of Timony’s band should, however, be met with ticker-tape celebrations by all garage-rock fans. Sure, Ty Segall and the Oh Sees display fleeting moments of ramalama brilliance, but the only garage album you need from the last five years is Ex Hex’s brilliant 2014 debut, Rips. Packed with enough belief in the power of rock ’n’ roll to form a cult, its 12 tracks of razor-sharp, Buzzcocks-influenced art rock are delivered in one defiant wig out.

Mary Timony is an indie-rock veteran. In the early 90s, she did time in Dischord-signed math rockers Autoclave and was the lead guitarist for Matador’s Helium, alongside Mary Lou Lord. But nothing she’s done before packs a punch like Ex Hex. Back with bassist Betsy Wright and drummer Laura King, the trio’s second album It’s Real – released on standard black and limited pink-and-blue vinyl – is another rowdy affair of bulldozing riffola and towering, glam-punk hooks.

As Timony, Brownstein, Clark and all subscribers to the excellent She Shreds magazine are already well aware, women rock harder and cooler than anyone else. Cherry Glazerr’s Clementine Creevy is another case in point. Since the scruffy lo-fi garage twang of the Secretly Canadian group’s first album, Haxel Princess, Creevy has taken a leaf out of St Vincent’s book and transformed her guitar style into something bold and alien-sounding. Her star will ascend further with the glimmering grunge pop of Cherry Glazerr’s third album, Stuffed And Ready.

Fans who’ve followed Timony and Sleater-Kinney since the 90s will recall the joyful DIY indie scene that labels such as K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Wiiija and Too Pure propped up. Sounding like angry, squat-dwelling art-rockers, Manchester five-piece ILL, Harri Shanahan, Sadie Noble, Whitney Bluzma, Fiona Ledgard and Tamsin Middleton share the same spirit of edgy disobedience as that late-80s and early-90s scene. The mutant post-punk and careening punk-funk of their shamanistic We Are ILL album – one of 2018’s best, and still available on transparent blue vinyl from their Bandcamp – threatens and charms in equal measure.

Another band doing its own thing are the Nottingham-formed duo of Katharine Eira Brown and Theresa Wrigley, who record and perform as Rattle. Eschewing the guitars and noisy chaos employed by the acts above, Brown and Wrigley create long, trippy, trance-like compositions using just two drum kits and chanted, chirruping vocals. Conjuring ritual magic from so little, including making ghostly use of rimshots and floor toms, Rattle’s second album for Upset The Rhythm, is a masterclass in restraint.

Chris Parkin