Wednesday, 22 June 2011


The Lunachicks, a New York quintet of hard-rockin' ladies, are probably one of the most important all-fmeal bands of the 1990s; yet they are practicially written out of any history about girl groups of this time.

The Lunachicks original line-up comprised of tattooed blonde and sometime model, lead singer Theo Kogan, lead guitarist and illustrator Gina Volpe, bassist and tattooist Squid, drummer Becky Wreck and rhythm guitarist Sindy.

The Lunachicks had it all - they were attractive, loud, unafraid, had a sense of humour and what's more they were able to combine good musicianship with feminist lyrics. Unlike the Riot Grrrl acts such as Bikini Kill that they were dismissed alongside, the Lunachicks combined a tight, punk rock sound with lyrical content that ranged from the absurd (Cookie Core, Spork, Mabel Rock) to the political (Binge & Purge, Spoilt, Luxury Problem) and covering subjects including menstruation (Plugg, #@!?) female body image (Less Teeth, More Tits), bestiality (Making It With Other Species), transsexuals (Mr. Lady, Lil' Debbie), abortion (Fallopian Rhapsody), Barbie Dolls (Bitterness Barbie), drug abuse (Pin Eye Woman 665) and even the state of their own career (Nowhere Fast)! The Lunachicks have a substantial, impressive body of work that comprises 5 studio albums, 1 live album and a DVD "home movie"/promo video collection.

The Lunachicks burst onto the music scene around 1989, with their debut release Sugar Luv released on Blast First records. This was soon accompanied by their first album Babysitters on Acid, originally Sonic Youth were called in to help out - but a conflict between them and the band (Lunachicks wanted a 'tune', SY didn't!) meant that they soon left the 'chicks to it. Unlike their contemporaries, including Hole and Babes in Toyland, the Lunachicks debut failed to garner much critical acclaim. Maybe it was just too damn weird; maybe John Peel, Everett True et al, didn't appreciate the girls' toilet humour, stupid name and ridiculous antics. Despite a catchy start with opener Jan Brady, and the first single Sugar Luv,  the rest of the album is a chaotic mix of sludgy guitars, silly voices and incomprehensible lyrics, rendering it unlistenable to most people. It didn't have the angry rage of early Babes in Toyland/Hole records - in fact, Lunachicks were just happy mucking around and their musicianship was not yet honed!

Nevertheless, the Lunachicks released their second album in 1992, this time on label Safe House. Binge & Purge would be an indication of the Lunachicks future sound - a faster, punkier sound, coupled with overtly feminist lyrics - Chicks Are Superstrong - and spawned the Apathetic  single. The cover featured the band post-food fight: covered in regurgitated food - they had literally binged and purged! The only let down is the production of the album - it's very quiet, and most of the heavy rock riffs sound muted ...
Around this time the 'chicks also appeared in seminal 'women in rock' film Not Bad For A Girl, alongside Babes in Toyland, Courtney Love and L7.

After much touring which saw the 'chicks develop a small fan base, original drummer Becky Wreck left the band to be replaced by newcomer Chip, and the band moved to NYC-based punk label, Go Kart Records, where third album Jerk Of All Trades was released in 1995. This was a real indication of how far the band had come - both image-wise (the band sport many new tattoos on the album sleeve) and sound-wise (a much louder, tighter, punkier sound) - the guitar on tracks such as Fingerful & FDS was really fast and hard! Lunachicks were a bonafide punk band now. They continued touring and their larger than life songs were showcased by a cartoonish stage presence - wigs, make-up & crazy costumes were always present at Lunachicks shows, as was the odd classic cover song: rock ballads such as Feel Like Making Love  and
More Than A Feeling  became set list regulars.

1997 saw the release of Pretty Ugly - an album that fused humour, pop punk and fun - it probably remains the Lunachicks most mainstream record. As usual, the cover sported the standard controversial cover image - a blonde hairstyling head covered in gunk. Don't Want You was released as a single with a funny video of the girls on a Blind Date style show. In my opinion, this should have been their break into the mainstream. It wasn't. More touring, including a stint on the Vans Warped Tour, continued and a live album in 1998 accurately captured the live experience of the Lunachicks - it is extremely fast & contains most of the content of the previous 2 albums, plus a cover of Iggy Pop's The Passenger. Early 1999 saw the release of Lunachicks - Naked XXX - a combination of promo videos, home movies and larking around.

Later that year, the Lunachicks released their last album to date, Luxury Problem, and perhaps this was a fitting end to what was now a 10-year career. The sound, as usual, was hard and fast - but perhaps now bordering on metal, and a million miles away from their somewhat sloppy debut Babysitters On Acid. It still fused comedy (Down at the Pub), feminism (Bad Ass Bitch) and an apt swansong in Nowhere Fast - the 'chicks had now been slogging away for 10 years and any kind of real success had eluded them. Alas, no one was interested. (I myself can attest to this - I sent a review of Luxury Problem  to Melody maker & received a call from the reviews editor complimenting me on my writing style, but unimpressed with my subject matter - he suggested I get myself to a Travis gig! - of course, dear reader, I did no such thing!) After the odd mention in UK metal magazine Kerrang! Lunachicks soon dwindled into obscurity again.
Maybe it was time to quit.

After a brief tour in support of the album, which saw now departed drummer Chip replaced by Helen Destroy, all went quiet in Lunachicks land. Although it has never been confirmed, the Lunachicks went their separate ways: lead singer Theo Kogan released a disco-ish solo album, and guitarist Gina Volpe formed new band Bantam. The girls reunited briefly for a gig in New York aptly titled The Lunachick Fringe - Bantam, Theo, bassist Squid's new band (Team Squid) and the Lunachicks played together. Since then, Theo has embarked on numerous modelling assignments, magazine spreads and bit parts in films such as Bringing Out the Dead and In the Cut.
Never ones to neglect their political roots, the Lunachicks reformed in 2004 for a Pro Choice benefit, the likes of another album however, look bleak.

For me, the Lunachicks encapsulated feminism like no other band - not overly concerned with image, sex appeal or being cool, the 'chicks combined good music with feminist lyrics and honed their craft over many years - it's just a shame they never got the popularity or recognition they deserved.

Recommended Listening
Don't Want You (Single, 1997, Go Kart Records)
Drop Dead Live (Album, 1998, Go Kart Records)
Sushi A La Mode  (Japanese only EP, 1993, Benten Label)

Website for Gina's band Bantam


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