When you think of garage rock and riot grrrl, you are most likely thinking of Le Butcherettes’ Teri Gender Bender – even if you don’t know it. Two decades on, Le Butcherettes are still flying the flag for the feminist hardcore scene, fronted by one of the fiercest women in music today. Formed in Mexico, where Teri spent her teenage years, the band has seen through a few line ups but always with Gender Bender at the heart.
Now on their third LP, A Raw Youth, they may have dispensed with the bloody aprons and pig’s heads of the band’s early days, but Le Butcherettes are still fired up on social comment and female empowerment. Writing from the perspective of the oppressed minorities – the raw youth – the album charts those who want to fight, those who have lost their faith and those who look beyond their own troubles. Launching in with the confrontational Shave The Pride, this is a real taste of garage punk with pounding bass lines, crashing drum beats that verge on the frantic and Gender Bender’s distorted, impassioned vocal telling you to “Take a step back and stop this madness!”. Channelling Debbie Harry in more melodic moments, Le Butcherettes exude a real femininity – that has nothing to do with a feminism that tries to emulate masculinity.
Proof of the band’s growing influence, A Raw Youth features both Iggy Pop and John Frusciante as guests. The middle eastern tinged La Uva has a tripped-out bedouin feel coupling Iggy Pop’s growls with Gender Bender’s feline vocal. Mysticism and garage come together, and it’s a fascinating combination. They Fuck You Over brings the true punk spirit once more with a warning note spoken intro, massive distortion and vocals that push up into a riot grrrl shout, Bikini Kill style. Le Butcherettes nail the instrumentation across A Raw Youth, bringing keys and electro effects to just the right pitch rather than sitting pretty on the standard garage band set up. One of the best tracks on the record is definitely The Hitch Hiker, with a creepy organ part and howling vocals it’s got an irresistible energy. The narrative lyric feels like a great throwback to songs like Sublime’s Date Rape but this is subtler, and this time it’s not funny. It also sets up some great vocal interplay, up against a urgent guitar riffs.
It would be easy to dismiss Le Butcherettes as an empty threat with noise and shock tactics. But A Raw Youth is not only a brilliant musical effort, you also can’t help but be swept along but Teri Gender Bender’s fire and conviction. Without ramming it down your throat, Le Butcherettes manage to make their point – carried along by an unswerving devotion to the cause. This is what true rock stars are made of.