The Julie Ruin - Hit Reset

by Sean Hewson Rating:9 Release Date:2016-07-09
In a year of death and disappointments it is good to be remember that we still have living legends like Kathleen Hanna. The Julie Ruin is her most friendly-sounding band and on their second album, Hit Reset, Hanna is still kicking against the pricks, because there are still pricks to kick against.
The Julie Ruin's sound is close to Stereolab or The Seeds. A drums, guitar, bass and keyboards line-up, they play inter-locking rhythm parts before bursting into simple two or three chord choruses. I particularly love Kathi Wilcox's bass-playing. It's wonderfully simple. On I Decide she has almost got it down to one note (there are two more on the chorus) and on Be Nice she's metronomic, like a punky Holger Czukay. This simplicity, alongside Carmine Covelli's tight drums provides a solid foundation for Sara Landeau's surf guitar lines and Kenny Mellman's keyboards which can move between farty, 70s synth sounds, 60s organ lead lines or the lovely piano on Calverton. The band performances on this record are outstanding, particularly on I'm Done and Time Is Up. 
Kathleen Hanna is also in fine form and her vocals and lyrics cover a lot of ground. Like many great singers she has several voices and can move between them in a song, as she does when she goes from her sweeter voice to her harsher voice on Hit Reset. On Calverton she delivers a fragile, flawed vocal that brings a lump to the throat. Lyrically as well, Hanna has a few voices and she can be as unflinching with herself as she is with others. She deals with abuse on Hit Reset as well as more insidious foes like Mr So and So who pays lip service to feminism to his own ends and the characters in Rather Not and Hello Trust No One where love and friendship have turned into something more uncomfortable. There are also some wonderful, emotional moments on Hit Reset, like 'Would you hold my hand while I cry in pain? Would you stare in my eyes and beg me to stay? Or would you love me enough to let me go?' from Let Me Go and the whole of Calverton. Calverton is a lovely way to close the album. Just vocals and piano, it goes from 'Why did I think that I could fly?' to 'You made me think that I could fly.' It's simple but so effective.
It is the combination of all these elements that makes Hit Reset the best album from Kathleen Hanna since Le Tigre's first album. Whilst the songs are all very simple and the lyrics often direct, there is so much in here to get lost in or to focus on.

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