In 2016, American garage-rock band The Julie Ruin released their second album, Hit Reset. This hidden gem is reminiscent of lead singer, Kathleen Hanna’s days in Bikini Kill and the Riot-grrrl movement, while staying on point with the cultural, social, and political aspects of life in 2016 to 2018. After releasing a solo album under the alias of Julie Ruin in 1998, Hanna decided to make the band a full time project. In 2010, The Julie Ruin was formed in New York City by Hanna, Carmine Covelli, Sara Landeau, Kathi Wilcox, and Kenny Mellman.
Hit Reset was received well by music sources and critics, and received an 8.2 out of 10 in a Pitchfork review, making it clear that the record is definitely worth listening to. Since the music falls into the punk-sphere, the album is not commercially known due to the popularity and demand for pop and rap music. I had never heard of Hit Reset or The Julie Ruin until just a few weeks ago, and I consider myself musically diverse, especially in the rock world. After listening to the album on repeat for a few weeks, I’m positive that everyone in The United States needs to hear it. They need to hear Hanna screaming, and feel her pain, and realize her triumphs with her.
I believe that music is powerful, in any capacity. That’s why it makes me upset when pop music on the radio is mindless and inappropriate. Musicians have a huge platform and they should use it to promote positive messages, and stories about their lives that people can relate to and learn from. Hanna uses Hit Reset to tell her story, and I think that people would gain a sense of empathy towards people by hearing this record. By traveling through Hanna’s journey, listeners are able to share her experiences with her, and feel for her. In a review from Pitchfork, the album is described as “The chance to tip her experiences onto a sterile surface and assess each memory’s impact before dropkicking it into oblivion; the kind of process that’s often only possible when you’ve looked death in the face. It’s Hanna’s most personal work” (Snapes). Hanna proves her power and “she triumphs at every decibel” (Powers).
Hanna has Lyme disease and has been battling it for years. It has forced her to take time off from making music, but she has never backed down from a fight. A review from NPR Music describes Hanna as “both the dissembled survivor and the furious avenger” (Powers). In 2013, a documentary titled “The Punk Singer” was released about her life, and that experience rings through Hit Reset. When I first listened to the album, I was a little conflicted. I was immediately reminded of sounds from the 90’s, and of my best friend. My best friend from home has a voice kind of similar to Hanna’s, being that it isn’t perfect or pristine. It’s not technically good, but it’s interesting and passionate. There were songs that I didn’t like at all, such as “Be Nice”, because I couldn’t understand the lyrics through Hanna’s frenzied screams. I’ll be honest, I got a little bit of anxiety as I listened to the album for the first time. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, but the music was definitely anxiety inducing.
I’d listen to this album when I’m pissed off. Maybe I’d be in my room or driving home from work, but this is the kind of music you listen to when you’re so angry but you may not know how to express the anger in a constructive way. This makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs, kick things and cry until I calm down. I think that it’s important to feel those emotions every once in a while. Emotions make people human.
While we have learned in class that the Riot-grrrl movement was not perfect, I think it was a great place to start in terms of getting everybody to notice women, see them as legitimate human beings, and understand that every woman is equal to every man. The Riot-grrrl movement only encompassed straight, white, middle class, women, and the documentary is pretty reflective of that. It seems as though most of the women interviewed and showed in the film are white and supposedly middle class (They all met in college, so they could afford a college education). Women of color, transgender women and men, and members of the LGBTQ+ community also needed a voice, as well as members of lower classes. It is unfortunate that so many people were not included in the Riot-grrrl movement, but it is understandable that the very first step in a movement is not perfect. There is no possible way for something to be perfect upon conception, but the important thing is that a first step was taken.
Hit Reset is reminiscent of 90’s punk, and combines techno-rock influences with classic punk attributes such as fuzzy guitar riffs, strained vocals, and manic rhythms. At first listen, tracks can be split up into two categories. The first kind of song you’ll hear on the album is wild, all over the place, and frenzy-inducing. These songs mimic classic punk and bring about a manic style. The second type of songs are almost monotone sound, following one rhythm, have repetitive lyrics, and could be classified as punk ballads. After listening to the album a few more times, it is obvious that each song follows a similar style that is unique to The Julie Ruin. The “New-wave romp didn’t lack energy, some of Hanna’s lyrics were unusually tentative” (Snapes). The album is cohesive, and follows Hanna’s experiences and thoughts as a female artist.
There are a few running themes that are apparent and maintained throughout the album, and tell a story. Love, being feminine, feminism, and identifying as a dreamer, can be found woven throughout the lyrics of each song. While Hit Reset cannot necessarily be considered a rock-opera like The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers or The Who’s Tommy, it definitely follows a theme and tells stories. The lyrics all seem autobiographical and personal, even in the songs where many of the lyrics could not be understood. They still felt unique and distinctive, because “Hanna faces down the abuse she’s suffered in her own life” (Powers). Half of the songs, such as on the album sound manic, and anxiety inducing. The lyrics are screamed with a high-pitched-frenzy and the instruments are all over the place, creating a craziness. The other half of the songs, such as “I Decide” and “Time is Up” sound almost monotone and flat, but not boring by any means. They seem so much calmer than the other songs on the album. Both of these styles work together to create a unique record.
A song that immediately stood out to me on the album was “Rather Not”. It sounded so familiar, and I could have sworn that I’d heard it before.I think that my subconscious knew it was a song I personally needed to hear. The low, catchy bass and guitar riffs that are continued throughout the song are reminiscent of Pixies’s “Here Comes Your Man”, and they compliment Hanna’s unique vocals perfectly. Hanna’s voice is one-of-a-kind. She’s no opera singer, but in her context and situation, there is no other way these songs could sound and still have the incredible weight that they possess. With lyrics that are pointed and deliberate, “Rather Not” follows a disastrous relationship that has ended. Although there is significant history, Hanna sings about throwing all of that history away for the sake of moving on and feeling comfortable and alive again. She sings “If you love me I’d rather not know” over and over throughout the song, which resonates with anyone who has fallen out of love and the relationship keeps coming back to haunt them.
Another interesting song is “Mr. So and So”. It starts with a catchy guitar riff and then Hanna comes in with a monologue. The lyrics up until the chorus are spoken as a speech, detailing an awkward and inappropriate encounter she had with a male fan. When the chorus starts, the lyrics echo “You can’t say goodbye until I get my hello. Mr. So and So. It’s all just for show.” It’s heartbreaking and makes me angry to hear about the uncomfortable things male fans have said to her. “Mr. So and So” is “an anti-ode to an entitled male fan” (Powers) that allows listeners to feel the same disgust that Hanna does.
Powers, Ann. “Review: The Julie Ruin, ‘Hit Reset.'” NPR Music, NPR, http://www.npr.org/2016/06/30/480605934/first-listen-the-julie-ruin-hit-reset. Accessed 2 Mar. 2018.
Snapes, Laura. “The Julie Ruin Hit Reset.” Pitchfork, Conde Nast, 16 July 2016, pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/22073-hit-reset/. Accessed 2 Mar. 2018.