Whenever someone bemoans the lack of protest music these days, I want to whack them with my placard stick. The list of affecting political bands is exhaustive, but Petrol Girls must be leading the charge as one of Britain (and Austria’s) most raw socially conscious groups.
By Henry Raby
Petrol Girls have consistently toured across Europe delivering intensive live sets and their releases have been increasingly slicing to the heart of social issues. Their latest EP is a wondrous jarring punk mixture of celebration and bitterness. If music can be a cathartic tool, then Survivor is a defiant call of resistance for survivors of sexual assault. The repeated chorus of “It was my anger that kept me alive” snarls with immense power.
Lead singer Ren Aldridge has perfected her ability to jump from raging vocals through to a hauntingly calm, “don’t tell me how to cope or how to be.” Next song, Sister, translates that individual survival mechanism to celebrate solidarity and a community of sisters “of both choosing and blood.” Ren’s anthemic singing of the “sister!” riot grrrl chorus flips to verses of hypnotic spoken delivery. It’s a hugely rewarding EP for its complex construction and deep lyricism that grip the listener and never allows them to become lost within the landscape.
Joe York’s scathing guitar opens final song Strike and is an example of the well-crafted post-hardcore sound that sparks energy into this album, giving breathing room for interesting soundscapes beyond the simple 3-chord punk trope. Leipa Kuraitė’s bass grinds beneath the surface like rumbling anger, all kept pinned together by Zock Astpai’s tight drumming.
One of Petrol Girls’ strengths has been their doublethink to hold two values. Lyrics can be dark and cryptic matched with an acerbic gaze at a cruel world, their other style is an unflinching attitude of defiance. By borrowing title and lyrics in The Future Is Dark from Virginia Woolf, the band acknowledge that amidst the pain encompassed in Survivor, there is a future of possibilities through community in Sister that asks “what you gonna do when the coven assembles?” to the overwhelming demand to “regain direction” on Strike.
As Strike slowly ebbs away like crackling electricity melting your speakers, it allows for a welcome moment of reflection from a superb, intelligent and hard-hitting EP.