Music Reviews
Gina Birch

Gina Birch

I Play My Bass Loud

Third Man Records

When you ask me if I’m a feminist, I say why the hell would I not be? (“Feminist Song”)

Gina Birch has been confronting the patriarchy since her days in the Raincoats. In the punk scene of the late ’70s, women took the revolutionary step of doing it for themselves. The Raincoats, the Slits, Lilliput broke the mold of rock as a boys club. They kicked open the door for the Go Go’s and the Bangles to be pop stars.

The Raincoats put out three influential albums in the ’80s. In the ’90s, super fan Kurt Cobain helped put them in the spotlight again with reissues of their self-titled debut, Odyshape, and Moving. They recorded their fourth album, Looking in the Shadows, and were scheduled to tour with Nirvana. The Nirvana tour never happened, and the Raincoats returned to the shadows of the music industry. Over the years, the Raincoats have reconvened for the occasional show, but no new music.

I Play My Bass Loud marks Gina Birch’s debut as a solo artist (at age 67). This is an exceptionally personal and powerful album. Working with producer Youth (Killing Joke, the Firemen), Birch explores the profound and ridiculous often at the same time, in glorious, bass-centric, dub-inspired sounds.

A perfect example of Gina’s ability to combine the silly with the serious is “I Will Never Wear Stilettos.” The song is a celebration of comfortable footwear, extolling the virtues of Doc Martens, brothel creepers, and Polish waitressing shoes. Why does Birch prefer practical shoes? The city is a dangerous place for a woman and “sometimes, you just have to run.”

“Feminist Song” is a thoughtful meditation on women’s place in the modern world. Birch sings about anger and happiness and resistance. On the chorus, she sings, “I’m a city girl, I’m a warrior… I’m political, I’m contagious and yes, sometimes a pushover.”

One of the quietest songs on the album is also the most powerful. The vocals on “I Am Rage” rarely rise above a stage whisper, which does more to convey the repressed anger many of us live with than a scream. You really feel the effort to remain civil when Gina sings, “I’m a boiling cauldron of rage.”

Birch gives a shout out to the Russian activist musicians on “Pussy Riot.” She sings about the group being labeled dangerous and insane by critics while they are just trying to be free and speak the truth. The song was written in response to group members being arrested and jailed for protesting Putin’s rule in Russia. When Birch says they are not afraid, it really means something.

Gina Birch is not afraid to make a statement, but she still wants to have fun. “Big Mouth” is a fun little song about gossip. “Let’s Go Crazy” is an invitation to be yourself and have a good time. Then there is the title track, the mission statement for the album. “I Play My Bass Loud” is a joyous ode to making a racket. She gives us a picture of herself as the crazy old lady standing at her open window blasting out bass lines to the neighborhood. May we all be bold enough to play our basses loud.

Gina Birch


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