When she first stepped to a microphone in the early ’90s, Kathleen Hanna was on a mission to make feminist rock music in a culture that still literally spat on female performers. She succeeded three times over: first in Bikini Kill, which then inspiring the entire riot grrrl movement, and finally in Le Tigre, which combined feminist history and calls to arms with joyous electro beats.
And then: nothing. Le Tigre quietly went on hiatus, and Hanna only surfaced to talk about reissues or riot grrrl history projects.
Turns out she had good reason: she was grappling with the debilitation of Lyme disease, an oft-misunderstood and poorly diagnosed condition, which put her out of commission; during that time, the devotion of her husband, Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys, led her to write the sweetest love song in her entire catalogue, “Just My Kind.”
The Julie Ruin is a brand new band (worlds away from the home recordings she once released as simply Julie Ruin), featuring Tobi Wilcox of Bikini Kill and three new brothers and sisters in arms. Hanna is no longer a revolutionary; she’s a respected elder who believes “there’s still a lot to say,” while wondering: “What happens when you’re not 20 but 41, and you have to sink into the you you’ve now become? Will the teenage sneer you so cultivated sneer back at you and make you feel so hated?”
Largely, however, she’s just ecstatic to still be alive and making music and getting back on the dance floor. Run Fast is full of party anthems for troubled times in a high-rent town, drawing from ’60s pop, ’70s new wave and ’80s hip-hop and hardcore. Hanna’s always been an explosive vocalist, but after years spent in bed, her shrieks sound even more cathartic. Alternately, she’s also now a 44-year-old woman who doesn’t need to dial the intensity up to 10 on every track.
The closing title track is a brief biography in song—one that begins, “We were called sluts from the time we were five”—that finds Hanna just as fiery as she is reflective and poignant. Few counterculture icons manage to mature artistically while retaining the roar of their youth; thankfully, Hanna is still alive to rally the rest of us to live life to the fullest. (TJR) (Sept. 19)
Download: “Oh Come On,” “Goodnight Goodbye,” “Run Fast”