Kathleen Hanna, the former Bikini Kill and Le Tigre Riot Grrrl icon, built The Julie Ruin out of lo-fi demos in 2010 that had origins way back in 1998. She had left Le Tigre for health issues that had turned out to be aggressive Lyme disease, and that informs Hit Reset. It’s more personal and varied than her usual “all militant feminism, all the time” approach, but still covers the minefield music-industry women navigate everyday.
Still, while she says she’s “not the man-hater [she was in] Bikini Kill,” most of the material fits that bill; it’s just updated for the social media era. She tackles male, mansplaining faux-feminist fans (“Mr. So and So”), internet trolls (“I’m Done”), hunger for viral fame (“Record Breaker”), and even people who like her music for the wrong reasons (“Hello Trust No One”). The biggest exception from the feminist formula would have to be “Hit Reset,” which focuses on her troubled upbringing at the hands of what sounds like an abusive, alcoholic father. Regardless the agenda at hand, every track on the album is full of bitter anger shrouded in angst.
If that rubs your fur the wrong way, then you probably wouldn’t have been too inclined to check out the album in the first place. What’s more notable here is that this isn’t just a band fronted by Hanna — it’s basically a solo act. She formed the band around her own 18-year-old demos and even more her band than anything she’s done before. So, she’s experimenting with all the sounds of her past. That makes for some interesting sonic twists and turns.
The synthier parts, like the intro to “Planet You,” are especially drawing, as are Hanna’s confrontational screams. But her snotty pop-punk vocals start to irritate after several tracks (and that’s coming from a fan of Melt Banana). Between that and the sleek production, you get that same uneasy feeling as when the guys from Blink-182 or Weezer sing about teenager problems, regardless of Hanna’s political stake. She’s able to divert that feeling through her meshing of Bikini Kill’s surfy punk, Le Tigre’s synthy dance music, and plain old weirdness outside of either realm. That, plus when her screams are distorted and unrestrained by pitch, are when the album hits its stride.
If you’re interested in the album already, none of the other issues will sway you. And even if they did, Hanna wouldn’t give two shits because that’d just make you a “Mr. So and So.” She’s so over it and “do-o-o-o-o-o-ne” with caring: [LISTEN to “I’m Done“]