UK firebrand punk outfit Petrol Girls releases their latest album, Baby, which smoulders with irreverence and continues the band’s reputation for snarling indignation.
Vocalist Ren Aldridge explains, “We wanted [this album] to be less epic and less preachy from day one, I hate sanctimoniousness. Like, really fucking hate it. But I also know that I have been mega preachy, and felt very pressured to be sanctimonious because we've always played in a very political punk scene. I lost my fun side, and I really needed to come back to that.”
Formed in 2012, Petrol Girls is made up of Ren Aldridge (vocals), Zock Astpai (drums), Joe York (guitar), and Robin Gatt (bass). Aldridge borrowed the band’s name from les Pétroleuses, female supporters of the Paris Commune, who set fire to structures in Paris with their version of Molotov cocktails.
Encompassing 11-tracks, Baby begins with “Scraps,” a short chaotic, escalating intro, which segues into “Preachers,” which opens on angular, glaring guitars topped by Ren’s irritated vocals, imbuing the lyrics with vicious sarcasm as she jeers at the self-aggrandizing disposition of the call-out culture.
Entry points on the album include “Feed My Fire,” featuring rumbling drums and edgy, grimacing guitars, while Ren’s vocals give the lyrics wailing, heated energy. “Baby, I Had An Abortion” travels on thrumming, growl-laced guitars atop a hammering rhythm as deliberately infantile lyrics flow overhead.
A sizzling drum shuffle opens “Clowns,” rolling into discordant guitars pulsing with obtrusive tones as Ren screams out the lyrics. “Fight For Our Lives” rides flavours of edgy, industrial punk and was co-written by activist Janey Starling. Raw as bloody meat, the song grinds and grates with cutting dynamism.
“Violent By Design” conjures up suggestions of Living Color on steroids, at once visceral and raging, followed by a low-slung, rambling blend of harmonies. Blistering and harsh, this song hits hard. Whereas “Sick & Tired” opens on ragged, scowling guitars riding an oblique rhythm. When the harmonics descend to a soft interlude, the feel of the song shifts, and then mousses back up to intense cacophonic layers.
The last track, “Bones,” probably the most melodic on the album, allows Ren to display her dulcet tones. When not spitting out luscious venom, she has an excellent voice.
Baby retains the fulminating hardcore essence of Petrol Girls’ sound, but at the same time is more fun. As Ren Aldridge says, “Our whole thing for a long time, and a big focus of the last record, was making political struggle sustainable. And I think having a good time where possible, and things being not totally serious all the time, is really essential.”