Album Review: Gina Birch – I Play My Bass Loud

Unbelievably this is the first solo album Gina Birch has ever released, and begs the question why hasn’t she done many more if this is what we have been missing. This album is infectious and bubbles with effervescence. It’s all the things I hoped it would be. Gina started out her career as bass player and singer with the legendary Raincoats, post-punk feminists whose second album “Odyshape” remains one of the greatest albums of all time, certainly in my book. The Raincoats folded in 1984 but not before Ms Birch showed us her potential not just as a songwriter and bass player but as a distinctive singer, especially on songs like “Rainstorm” from 1984’s “Moving” album. Despite occasionally reforming over the years, we haven’t heard a great deal from the members of this legendary band so it’s basically a hold the front-page moment here. This album doesn’t disappoint. Gina has teamed up with record producer Youth (ex-Killing Joke bassist turned producer, who has worked with the likes of Kate Bush, Paul McCartney and The Orb, to name just a few). In places this album is not unlike some of the fresh dance cuts of Tom Tom Club, another female bass player from a post-punk outfit stretching herself and collaborating with other artists, but here the dub inspired bass that has always been at the heart of her inspiration is more to the fore than the New York eighties dance of Tina Weymouth’s crew. 

The title song which opens the album is unsurprisingly bass heavy, with a simple groove overlaid with echo feedback and Lynchian sound samples as she opens the window and flies notes around the room. The next two songs “And Then It Happened” and “Wish I Was You” couldn’t be any different from each other, as the latter is slow and moody, while the former is gleefully crazy, yet both centre around the line ‘I used to wish I was you, now you wish you were me’, the first a negative reflection, the second a defiantly accepted affirmation. “Wish I Was You” is a gloriously produced piece of pop, coming on like The Breeders, and having so much fun. It’s no surprise to find grunge merchant Thurston Moore popping up occasionally on this record too. “Big Mouth” concerns itself with the evils of gossip over a funky beat, bass driven of course, with that David Lynch weird autotune thing on the vocals. 

Obviously you can’t expect a Gina Birch record to go by without nods to feminist themes and there are one or two on here. I mean there’s even a song called “Feminist Song” where she says that when she is asked if she is a feminist, she reply’s ‘why the hell would I not be’. We’ve also got her ode to Russian politico-punks Pussy Riot, and her playful “I Will Never Wear Stilettos”. 

“I Am Rage” sounds like Sonic Youth does Motown as Gina intones that ‘I’m a bubbling cauldron of rage’, “Dance Like A Demon” sounds like an angst driven trip hop song over a lolloping 90’s indie beat, like UNKLE. “Digging Down” is The Specials “Ghost Town” given a Barry Adamson remake, with that distinctive Gina Birch chorus over a Grace Jones drawl. The albums closer “Let’s Go Crazy” does sound a lot like a David Lynch doing Pere Ubu’s “Dub Housing”. 

If I have one criticism it is that lyrically it is a little naïve, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and its infectiousness bypasses any misgivings I have. I found myself playing it over and over. It would suit any mood, any environment, and as soon as it finishes, I’m happy to play it all again. 

Andrew Wood / /

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