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The Appalachian

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The Julie Ruin, Kathleen Hanna’s newest project, releases first album on Dischord

In 1997, feminist punk icon Kathleen Hanna recorded a solo album in her apartment titled “Julie Ruin.”

Meant as a break from her day job with riot grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill, “Julie Ruin” was Hanna’s first excursion into synth-pop territory.

The touring band for that album became Le Tigre, which replaced Bikini Kill as Hanna’s main act. Le Tigre specialized in jittery, political dance-punk that paved the way for everything from LCD Soundsystem to the subversive punk collective Pussy Riot.

 

 

Le Tigre lost steam in the mid-2000s and became inactive. Hanna released little work for the latter part of the decade in part due to her struggle with Lyme disease.

In 2010, Hanna rounded up some friends and formed a project called The Julie Ruin. Though it took a few years, The Julie Ruin now seems to be Hanna’s full-time project with a strong debut album called “Run Fast” on famed independent label Dischord.

At 44, Hanna still has an exceptional punk-rock screech, and she sounds confident as ever in front of the album’s pounding, energetic rhythm section.

Generally, the music on “Run Fast” is hyperactive, New Wave stuffed with prominent, catchy bass ¬lines and manic keyboard squiggles.

Still, The Julie Ruin can’t be pigeonholed into one genre. “Run Fast” is chaotically varied, zipping from garage-rock to textured electroclash to spacious balladry in just a few tracks.

This variation is sometimes overwhelming. The songs are weak, but more because the frenetic pacing can leave your head spinning.

That said, some moments on “Run Fast” are outstanding. Openers “Oh Come On” and “Ha Ha Ha” are hooky and surprisingly fun.

The album’s best moments are actually its most subdued. “Goodnight Goodbye” coasts on an infectious electric piano vamp and sports some of Hanna’s sharpest, most vividly personal lyrics.

The closing title track follows suit, with poignant major-key synths and impassioned vocals. It’s the longest song at five minutes and closes the album on a spacey, bittersweet high.

Along with other standouts like “Just My Kind,” these songs take a more confessional approach that Hanna hasn’t really explored before.

At its worst, “Run Fast” is a little unfocused. Its tremendous appetite for all forms of maximalist dance-punk is invigorating, but adds up to a duller overall impact.

But at its best, “Run Fast” is full of the same expressive passion that fueled early Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. That it directs this energy toward new songwriting heights is promising for The Julie Ruin’s future.

Rating: 7.0 out of 10

REVIEW: COLIN MOORE, Senior A&E Reporter

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