The Menstrual Cramps – Free Bleedin’ [Album Review]

Women are criminally overlooked in punk. Patti Smith, Tori Amos and Brody Dalle are rarely mentioned in the same breath or banal think piece as Joe Strummer, Johnny Rotten or Iggy Pop. It’s yet another platform in which gender inequality is rampant through revisionist history. Trying to right this indisputable wrong are The Menstrual Cramps, and the independent London quartet are angry. It’s not an aimless, masculine aggression, but a focused, witty assault on heteronormative ideals that are plainly barbaric.

Thematically the album starts with typical punk fair. A lambasting of capitalism and a call to dethrone the incumbent government, it’s the only lull in the record. While the lyrics on opening duo Boycott the Lot and The Smash, are of important subject matter, they feel a tad careless in their consistent A/B rhyming couplets. A Shakespearean sonnet, this is not. However, from Neo Nazi onwards, the album really comes into its own.

By focusing on topics that are paths less trodden in contemporary punk, The Menstrual Cramps find their delightfully addictive niche. This is an album sure to scare seven shades of shit out of basement dwelling neckbeards. The album delights in its exploration of sexual liberation. Taking cues from the splinter groups of second wave feminism, Mutual Masturbation is a wonderful experience (yes, fnar, fnar, get your laughs out now). The aforementioned Neo Nazi is excellent satirical in appropriating the ‘Oi Oi’ style of Nazi punk groups to punishing effect. Equally, congratulations have to go to the band for not recycling Dead Kennedy’s ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ as many of their peers have. Musically the album is in line with both Kennedy’s and the Cramps – a fact self evident from their name. There’s more punk influence on display though: apolitically the album could slide nicely into Crass’ back catalogue. Anarcho-Punk delivered in a frenzy, may not break the mould, but it’s still brilliant.

The band  take a fiercely intelligent look at the result of the #MeToo movement in Idols, an exploration of celebrities’ ability to abuse through their power and influence. ‘John Lennon preached peace/ But then he hit his wife’. No target is too big for the M-Cramps. Another example of the band’s biting wit comes in I Like Your Top; an examination of the homogenisation of men through hipster and rape culture. ‘Scruffy hair looks effortless, but I’ve been staring in the mirror for three years and I still look like a cunt’ snarls Emilia Elfrida in a spoken word passage. This really hits home just how aggressively smart the four women are. They’re taking no prisoners.

Overall, it’s not a musically ambitious album, but this is more than made up for lyrically. That’s not to say that Cooper Rose (guitar), Robyn Jenner (bass) and Beth White (drums), play poorly. In fact, they play expertly proficient Riot Grrrl punk. They provide the perfect setting for the aggro tendencies that this genre was founded on.

This album oozes character, and that character is a rightfully angry woman. If you’re furious at the inequality of the world around you, listen to The Menstrual Cramps. They’ll leave you beaming from ear to ear at the brilliantly observed lyrics, and with a clenched fist ready to take on the patriarchy. Or punch a Nazi. Or both. Both will do just fine.

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