The Menstrual Cramps: Free Bleedin’ – album review
The Menstrual Cramps: Free Bleedin’ (self released)
If the Spice Girls had lived in a squat with Millie Tant, Auntie Fascist and her feminista sistas, and listened to Vice Squad and early Fuzzbox demo’s… they would still be nowhere near as good as the Menstrual Cramps. Says Ged Babey.
Pleased to see the CD packaged in recycled, marker-penned (Boycott) Amazon cardboard… when the first song calls for everyone to Boycott Starbucks, Amazon, the Sun, Harrods, L’Oreal, BP and Shell…or as the MC’s say Boycott the Lot!
I fuckin’ love the Menstrual Cramps – arguably and bizarrely the missing link between Crass and the Spice Girls if they’d read the SCUM Manifesto instead of OK Magazine.
For some reason I really did think they were an all-women Tribute to the Cramps. They are most decidedly Not.
Nor are they the UK’s equivalent to Pussy Riot – that is a bit of an exaggerated claim someone made on their behalf – they need to do some serious time in jail before they are. (Given time, they may well prove to be as ‘important’ as Bikini Kill…)
They are: one of the most fun & filthy freedom-fighting feminist punk bands in the country. “Lefty Lezzers” on the Rag and Off the Bone. Radical Feminists who get their Tits Out for their own amusement rather than for ‘the Lads’.
They won last years Hercury Prize ( great pun) and have fought pitched-battles with fascist-trolls online. This is their second album.
Musically it uses the same template We’ve Got A Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It had borrowed from Riot City records in 1981 but never gave back. They are also the spiritual daughters of the legendary Period Pains and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of their Granma’s was in the Sick Things. But it’s not about the music per se. Here is how the band describe themselves and their ethos;
Formed in a broken bedroom in Bristol, on the verge of homelessness, and rife with anger, The Menstrual Cramps were born. Politics on the brain and injustices surrounding them, they jumped ship to a dive in London and recorded their debut album ‘We’re Not Ovaryacting’ on distorted acoustic guitars, calling on the world to ‘Save the Badgers’, and ‘Cull the Tories’. Their debut music video for ‘My Bush Ain’t Ur Business’ was removed from YouTube after some trolls reared their ugly heads and didn’t want women to reclaim their own breasts or bodies. This summer they are back with their new album, Free Bleedin, which features revolution demanding song ‘The Smash’, grrrl power anthem ‘No Means No’, and ‘Idols’ which approaches the art world’s problem with abusers, demanding us to stop idolising our idols and to instead ‘Scrutinize Their Trivial Lives’. With their mission to ‘Make Girls Feel Good’, empower all womxn and end inequality and injustices across the world, The Menstrual Cramps aren’t here to take your shit.
And they certainly live up to it. Free Bleedin’ takes in sledgehammer subtle politics; Tory Scum, Neo-Nazi… female lust: – Mutual Masturbation, Long-Haired Babe, Tinder Girl, and Rape culture and misogyny; No Means No, Boyz Will Be Boyz. They succeed in being funny and joyful whilst being angry and polemical… but never dull.
It is dayglo, instant punk – ramalama but ramshackle, with a pop sensibility and joi de vivre and a message for the patriarchy and the Tories. Theresa May particularly, who’s problem is that she doesn’t masturbate apparently.
The Menstrual Cramps do seem pretty obsessed with ‘chick flicks’ to be honest: Don’t beat around the bush– but no more or less than any young male punk band who mix humour and spite with songs about wanking and their nobs. Garage Punk chauvinism is parodied beautifully too whilst using the same vibe and musical licks on Mutual Masturbation. Lyrically whether its a sex-positive feminist message or the in-yer-face confidence of a ‘Naked Attraction’ contestant in song, I’ll let you decide.
I Like That Top is a wonderfully droll takedown of Top Shop girls with a sped-up Au Pairs feel.
Idols starts with the line Kate Bush is a Tory and is a litany of abuse by pop and movie legends where Lennon and Bowie rub shoulders with Weinstein and Woody Allen – with Honey Bane-style enunciation and a D-beat.
Tinder Girl is a piece of ‘perfect pop’ punk, Teenage Kicks style -the hit song which Kenickie never had. I could listen to this song on a loop for 24 hours. ( that’s how sad I am).
Killin Us incorporates the vocal style of the Clapping Song and a grunge feel, proving the Menstruals aren’t one trick ponies musicwise.
Tory Scum is fast twelve-bar blues with a sublime vocal with fucks a-plenty.
Phone Hack attacks Murdoch with a great rhyme: Tory donor / small boner / business owner / old loner and insists that its time to burn the Sun!
No Means No and Boyz Will Be Boyz are the standouts in terms of gender politics -the former sounding like the Mob the latter the Ramones, but lyrically they spell it out in no uncertain terms. No MEANS No and Boys WILL be Boys until they Do Something About It – and take responsibility.
The Menstrual Cramps target audience should be every disaffected 14 -19 year old girl in the UK, not old punks like me. But they’ve got to compete with Cardi B, Nicki Minaj and Arianna Grande….
Buy a copy for your grand-daughter, niece, god-daughter… when they start to ‘rebel’, it will give them some ‘focus’ and some laughs ( I’m talking to my usual readership of 50-something punk-fans…) and burn a copy off for yourself as it’s just great to hear youngsters carrying on the true tradition of punk rock – to say what needs to be said, and to say it loud and proud and unapologetically, whilst having a lot of fun.
Get a copy of the CD at gigs or via Facebook
The album is on all digital platforms including Spotty, below.
SEP 15th LOUD WOMEN Fest 3 at The Dome, Tufnell Park, London
SEP 28th Wotsit Called Fest 2018 at The Palace, Hastings
OCT 13th Fishlock Promo DIY Punk All Dayer at the Exchange, Bristol
OCT 31st support to She Makes War at Hare & Hounds Kings Heath, Birmingham
NOV 1st support to She Makes War at The Jericho Tavern, Oxford
NOV 2nd support to She Makes War at Heartbreakers, Southampton
NOV 3rd support to She Makes War at the Thekla, Bristol
All words by Ged Babey