Featuring the Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band The New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band Le Tigre
In the liner notes to the first Chicago Women’s Liberation Band release, 1972’s Mountain Moving Day, the sisters in the band state, “We wanted to make music that would embody the radical, feminist, humanitarian vision we shared.” Much like the Chicago Women’s Liberation Movement–a collective of women with utopian, socially progressive, feminist aims–the recently released compilation Papa, Don’t Lay That Shit On Me has lofty liberal goals which it achieves, but musical goals which fall slightly short.
Papa Don’t Lay That Shit On Me is a pastiche of female outrage in several genres, including tracks from folk and blues outfits like the original Chicago Women’s Liberation Band, its sister-in-crime the New Haven Women’s Liberation Band, electronic neo-feminist mainstays Le Tigre, and spoken word comedy from CWLM founding member Naomi Weisstein.
Some tracks are phenomenal, particularly the hilarious stand-up routine from Weisstein called, “Defending Yourself with Karate.” Weisstein relates an anecdote in a high-pitched voice (eerily reminiscent of Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite): “I’m still into being ugly and fierce and not taking no shit from no man.”
It its missteps, Papa comes off as earnest and oversimplified–a kind of Sesame Street protest that’s hard to take seriously in the irony-packed aughts. Not to mention the fact that most of the musicians featured in the various incarnations of the Women’s Liberation Band barely knew how to play their instruments. The New Haven WLB’s “Abortion Song” features lyrics like, “We’re talkin’ ’bout abortion, it’s against the law / But we know that it’s our right! / Control of our bodies we have got to win / We’ve got to be together to fight!” and it makes me picture braless hippies reeking of patchouli as opposed to strong, fearless womyn like the riot grrrls I emulated as a teen.
But that’s the ultimate attraction of this compilation: it shows the music and ethos that paved the way for the riot grrrls and other DIY feminist acts of the later ’70s up until today. The Le Tigre track on Papa, “TGIF,” says it best, “You know all my friends are fucking bitches / Best known for burning bridges.” The women on Papa,Don’t Lay That Shit On Me can teach a new generation of angry young ladies how to burn bridges with the best of them.