The Julie Ruin

Run Fast

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Pioneering Riot Grrrl, Bikini Kill founder, and noted feminist musician Kathleen Hanna first unveiled the Julie Ruin moniker in the late '90s. The project served as an alter ego of sorts, and featured Hanna's first experiments with sampling and electronic instruments, which led to her long-running work with the much more developed Le Tigre shortly thereafter. Years later, Hanna revived the Julie Ruin name, returning with a full band for Run Fast, a shouty web of punk, politics, and attitude that draws more on her organic basement rock brashness, but also nods to other phases of her storied career. Tunes like the chunky opener "Oh Come On" and the bouncy "Stop Stop" are screaming slabs of spirited punk pop, but snaky synthesizers and dance beats pop up throughout the album. "Ha Ha Ha" is all groove, marrying buzzy synth lines to a steady surf punk beat and not skimping on handclaps, and "Kids in NY" offers a critique of D.I.Y. culture and gentrification in the hipster circles of New York City over a breezy (but distorted) backbeat that initially gives way to groovy bongos and echo-drenched synthesizers. Regardless of what type of musical accompaniment she's singing over, however, Kathleen Hanna is the star of the show on every track. Her persona -- sometimes performance artist in the role of the rock star and sometimes the other way around -- is as loud, brazen, bratty, and bold as ever here, if not more so. Run Fast shows a constantly challenging and self-aware artist who has just as much to say as ever, and now approaches her craft with more nuance and experience. As inspirational as Bikini Kill's life-affirming blasts of punk could be, they were never as accessible and simply fun as the '80s synth pop modes of Run Fast, which somehow manage to be equal parts poetic, provocative, moving and enjoyable.

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