Chastity Belt: self-titled – Album review – ‘exemplifying Écriture Féminine in rock’Album Review

Chastity Belt – Chastity Belt (Hardly Art)


Out 20 Sept 2019

Fourth, eponymous album from Hardly Art-Rockers writing herstories. 

‘The Future is Female’ said Rock journalist Jon Savage a long time ago… possibly in response to the rock critic cliche coined by Jon Landau in 1974 about Springsteen, “I have seen the future of rock’n’roll and it’s name is…”

Well the Future is Here and it is mainly female – as far as the most interesting, exciting, new music is concerned.  It’s a bold statement with obvious exceptions, but I think it’s true.  I’m not gonna list them all, you do the work, seek them out…

Pop is ruled by Lizzo and Billie Eilish. In indie-punk circles IDLES are female-centered even if the band are all male. The reformed Pixies have to have a female member to still be Pixies.  I’m not talking about ‘all-female’ bands per se. Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something and Hurtling -two fabulous new bands on my list for mouth-watering praise have two token men in their respective line-ups but they know their place.

The notion of Écriture féminine is defined here in Wikipedia but I discovered the term in Simon Reynolds Joy Press joint book the Sex Revolts, (Gender Rebellion and Rock’n’Roll).  The Écriture féminine in Rock Music discussed is a variety of free-form, hazy, wandering musics, from pastoral psych to shoe-gaze/dream-pop to krautrock:  Patti Smiths galloping improvisation babblogues  to My Bloody Valentines oceanic soundscapes.  It’s not quite as simple as masculine and feminine (Le. La…). Mummys boys are just as likely to write in Écriture féminine as riot grrrls.

Not since the Raincoats though have an all-female band personified and exemplified the term as much as Chastity Belt.  A band who have evolved with every release from smart-grrrls playing at pop-laced-with-irony to the emotional roller-coaster of self-doubt set to delicate music which was I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone, arguably one of 2017’s most vital releases.

After ‘a hiatus’ and solo work comes this eponymous album and the burden of expectation… the press release adds to the mythos of the band.

Chastity Belt’s energy is like a circuit, circling around the silly and the sincere. Tongue-in-cheek shit-shooting and existential rumination feed into each other infinitely.  … the euphoria of making music with your best friends is protected from the outside world’s churning expectations. It’s a kind of safe zone for the band to occupy as their best selves: a group of friends who love each other.

Lydia, Gretchen, and Julia all share lead vocals on different tracks on the album. The result is their most sonically developed and nuanced record yet; one that’s not only a product of, but a series of reflections on what it means to take what you need and to understand yourself better.

What the making of Chastity Belt reveals is that the band has tapped into a deeper tradition of women making art on their terms: the act of self-preservation in favor of the long game. In favor of each other. In this cultural moment, taking space like this to prioritize the love over the product seems progressive. Chastity Belt’s intentions have resulted in an album deeply expressive of four people’s commitment to what they love most: making music with each other.

The three songs chosen to precede on You-Tube are without a doubt the best ones to do the job of introducing you to the album.  It’s not an album of ‘hits’. It’s a night-time album.  It’s a grower… and at this moment in time I don’t feel it quite lives up to it’s predecessor or its own press.  Which is a shame because everything about Chastity Belt is so right. They are out on their own in terms of identity, sound and purpose.

But I confess, It’s probably me. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had the time to put in the necessary repeated listens to Chastity Belt … it did take quite a while for I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone to really embed itself into my consciousness and for me to ‘get it’.

And maybe that is ‘the thing’ about Écriture Féminine, it is not as immediate and as easily accessible as phallocentric rock with its thrust and structure and predictable nature.

I’m gonna take my time… I’ll let you know in a while whether this album matches up to the previous one.  And I’m curious as to how it sounds live…. so maybe see them on tour before getting the album….

The Future is (Still) Female.

UK Tour Dates

13 Oct – Thekla, Bristol
15 Oct –  Brudenell, Leeds
16 Oct – Yes, Manchester
17 Oct –  Stereo,Glasgow
18 Oct – SWN Festival, Cardiff,
19 Oct – O2 Academy Oxford
21 Oct – Patterns, Brighton
23 Oct – The Joiners. Southampton
24 Oct – Islington Assembly Hall, London

Chastity Belt on  Bandcamp

Chastity Belt Website


All Words by Ged Babey

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Ged Babey is 56. from Southampton, has written since 1985 for Sound Info, Due South, various fanzines and websites, contributed to Record Collector magazine and was sole author of 'Punk Throwback' fanzine -the name of which was taken from an insult hurled at him by the singer with a young band he managed for a while. Ged believes that all good music and art has a connection with punk rock.


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