Rubella Ballet

Ballet Bag

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Originally issued as a handmade cassette in 1982 by Poison Girls' Xntrix label, Ballet Bag was the debut release by Rubella Ballet, a group associated with the anarchist punk scene, but whose music was just as likely to venture into gothic rock or new wave. They stood out due to their cartoonish Day-Glo outfits, which the band's members designed themselves, and were deliberately intended to be the exact opposite of the deadly serious black clothing or military uniforms worn by other groups. Their songs were energetic and joyous, even as the lyrics confronted serious matters and expressed anguish, frustration, and loneliness. "Emotional Blackmail" (later known as "T") contains the titular phrase repeated ad nauseum over a brooding bassline and pounding drums. "Belfast" is a more pogo-worthy punk song, with singer Zillah Minx feeling lost after running away from home and reaching out to her parents, hoping they'll let her return. "Newz at 10" and "Slant & Slide" are more overtly political, but aren't commanding or forceful. Songs like "Me" and "Krak Trak" injected funk, disco, and dub elements, and others feature synth sweeps or squiggles, further distancing the band from punk purism. And even though the group were often associated with the goth scene, they never seemed obsessed with death and gloom. Their music and appearance were far too spirited and exuberant, even if their lyrics could be paranoid or cathartic. Ballet Bag is an excellent debut from one of the more colorful punk bands of the '80s. [The tracks from Ballet Bag appeared on subsequent LP and CD releases by the band, but the album's first stand-alone reissue, by Dark Entries in 2017, included six songs recorded for John Peel's radio show, complete with sarcastic banter from the legendary DJ himself.]

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