Babes In Toyland: The Astoria, London

IF WE’RE TO have anger in rock, then let it boil like this. Babes In Toyland’s fury is intimidating. They were never more than a neat name to me before, but tonight Babes Inn Toyland are a prodigious force of nature.

So what are they cut up about? Oh, the obvious. It’s a man’s, man’s world still and Babes wanna know why. There’s a balance to redress. So they step up there and beef out their frustrations in the only terms we understand — big fat curdling primal screams. Babes In Toyland take rock right back to basics, a place it should never have quit anyhow. They lay it all on the line.

Kat Bjelland is a plucky, brave figure. The live experiences captures Babes’ uphill struggle potently; there’s just these three gals screaming their truth before a melee of testosterone, a sea of hairy males ogling and leching. Any female who dares brave the pit is unceremoniously groped. Yeah, that’s what Babes are up against. Animal instincts rule here.

Kat must be tempted to proslytize, to spit out dogma, but she doesn’t. Instead, she works by fractured image and semi-revealed intimate memory, a subtle evocation of life’s stubborn, institutionalised injustices. Such subtleties don’t transfer to this bearpit, mind: we’re just left with the wrath, the anger, the Scream. Surely no band, barring Hole, give vent to outrage so chillingly.

So the music’s primitive? Sure. So are their grievances. For 45 minutes, Babes In Toyland stand on stage and rail brilliantly and articulately against a morally bankrupt social order, then take their leave and leave me belligerent, brimming with righteous anger, and breathless. Nice one. Now that’s what I call music.

© Ian GittinsMelody Maker, 11 January 1992

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