Gina Birch– I Play My Bass Loud
Gina Birch may be best known for co-founding the legendary post-punk band The Raincoats in 1977, but she has remained a fixture on the scene for a very long time, both as a musician and as a filmmaker and music video director. Now Birch is releasing her first solo album, proving that old punks never die. I Play My Bass Loud melds decades of influences, spanning punk, rock, reggae and more into a cohesive statement from a supremely creative mind.
The title track stakes a claim and makes a statement right out of the gate, with lyrics like “Sometimes I wake up and I wonder, what is my job? – I play my bass loud!” Birch notes “There’s the whole thing about women playing their music and wanting to be heard, wanting acknowledgement or the space to do it. The bass is sometimes assigned as a lesser instrument, and yet because of reggae and the creativity of a lot of women players, it has always been a creative and phenomenal instrument.” Fittingly, the song and video features four other women bassists: Emily Elhaj (Angel Olsen), Mikki Itzigsohn (Small Wigs), Staz Lindes (The Paranoyds), Hazel Rigby (TBHQ) and Birch herself, dancing around with choreographer Brontez Purnell.
“And Then It Happened” is a spoken word track, Birch’s poetic words laid over a bass melody and swirling distortion, which fades perfectly into the lead single “Wish I Was You.” Here we find fellow musical legend Thurston Moore on “thrash chords and noise action.” It’s a hell of a catchy tune, buoyed by Birch’s musing on aging and being ‘cool,’ before she concludes “so many brilliant people I wished I could be / time has carried me forward, now I’m happy with me.”
Birch is undoubtedly a trailblazer and inspiration for her work with The Raincoats, and with tunes like “Feminist Song” and “Pussy Riot,” she is still tackling the place of women in the world, singing on the latter song “some people think we’re trouble / dangerous, profane / but we’re just doing our best to be free, wild, sane.”
Gina Birch (photo by Eva Vermandel)
On the very melodic “I Am Rage,” Birch sings “rage, I am rage, I’m a bubbling burning cauldron of rage,” words that are almost at odds with the soft way Birch delivers them. In a deftly executed turn, the next song is an ode to shoes over a dark dance beat “I Will Never Wear Stilettos.” “Feminist Song” is a retooling of a song that has appeared in Raincoats sets that mixes spoken word (“So when you ask me if I’m angry, I say why the hell would I not be?”) with the full-throated chorus “I’m a city girl, I’m a warrior, the city made me this way.”
The record was recorded with Youth (of Killing Joke.) “It was a fabulous experience to record at Youth’s in Wandsworth,” says Birch. “Youth likes my passion and my bad guitar playing. I like his attitude, so calm and focused… in a Zen kind of way. We are in fact opposite sides of the same coin.”
Birch is obviously in a very creative time of her life, working on painting as well as music, saying “It’s like a dream come true. I’ve been working hard in my artist’s garret, mostly painting, but always writing songs. An idea forms in my head and I write it or paint it, and now it seems, these ideas are blooming wildly, reaching over the wall!”
I Play My Bass Loud is out now via Third Man Records and available on all major streamers.