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Album of the Week

Review: Childbirth Gleefully Skewer Men’s Wrongs on ‘Women’s Rights’

Childbirth's Women's Rights
SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: September 28, 2015
Label: Suicide Squeeze

“Feminists don’t have a sense of humor,” smirked pianist-polymath and lifelong activist Nellie McKay on her 2009 song “Mother of Pearl,” a line that her cult knew was facetious. Two years prior, Vanity Fair had published a Christopher Hitchens article called “Why Women Aren’t Funny,” which garnered so much hate mail that the publication created the email address [email protected] just to funnel angry replies. Both address an unfortunately accepted notion that something about women’s humor is in contention, which you can quash by talking to a woman — any woman, ever — or, failing that, listening to Childbirth, who on their second “album” (at a sprawling 28 minutes, nearly double that of 2014’s It’s a Girl) pick up the mantle of Funniest Band That Matters from the sadly departed Das Racist.

With love to the clueless-straights anthem “How Do Girls Even Do It?” (“Do you use your fingers?”), It’s a Girl had one absolute classic comedy-punk song, “I Only F–ked You as a Joke,” which contributed the Drake-level truth “I can’t make good decisions every day” to the pantheon. But Women’s Rights is a whole classic comedy-punk album, refocusing the same fertile (no pun) comedy ground mined by Broad City and The Hairpin through a blunt punk lens. (The press photo for Women’s Rights features the trio laughing with salad, a genius homage to the Hairpin’s compilation of, well, women laughing with salad.)

Childbirth consists of Julia Shapiro from Chastity Belt, Bree McKenna from Tacocat, and Stacy Peck from Pony Time, three bands of similarly cheery DIY fidelity whose mission is less blunt than their combined satirical outfit, though it’s hard to be more blunt than a band who begins an album with 40 seconds of shouting “Childbirthhhhhhhhhh! Childbirthhhhhhh! Women’s rights, women’s rights, women’s rights!” (We now know this to be their signature intro, as It’s a Girl started the same way with the title swapped).

From there, Shapiro’s deadpan yowl dictates simple premises over occasionally-in-tune riffs: “Nasty Grrls” baits gynephobes for three minutes (“We don’t take baths,” “We eat in the shower”), “Siri, Open Tinder” is a swipe-left diary (“shirtless,” “single dad,” and “Seahawks” are all cause for rejection) and “Let’s Be Bad” lists myriad bourgeois rebellions like ordering dessert and wearing skirts that “barely fit.” “Breast Coast (Hangin’ Out)” is either a cruel swipe at Bethany Cosentino herself (or at least the perception of vapid boyfriend worship in her songs), or a race to see how monosyllabic the Childbirth concept could get: “Hanging out / Doing stuff / With my boyfriend / I’ll love you forever.” It’s all the more brutal when played with Andy Kaufman-like straightness.

But Women’s Rights has its share of more complex situations as well, not to mention the occasional fourth chord. “Baby Bump” hilariously finds Shapiro bringing cocaine to a baby shower, and in “More Fertile Than You” she boasts about “tests I know I can pass,” and proudly catalogs her history of broken condoms and inept birth control pills. As “You’re Not My Real Dad” brings the album to a close, she starts to wonder if the guy she’s addressing is her real dad and barrages him with questions like “Are you on LinkedIn?”

And the best track, “Since When Are You Gay” is actually affecting with the album’s release coming off the heels of Bisexual Awareness Week. No doubt some Childbirth fans have, like the band themselves, been forced to contend with the cringe-worthy question of being asked “Are you only doing this to get a date?” upon coming out, or “Are you not pretty enough to have a boyfriend?” But in the face of all the album’s we’re-doomed absurdity, an optimistic chord change appears and Shapiro invokes another Seattle trio, concluding, “Everyone is gay, anyway.” “Everyone” is the key; feminism is necessary for everyone, as is “women’s” humor. As is this band.