The Butchies on the Butchies: “They enjoy wearing outfits and being OUT lezzies.” The Butchies on their Are We Not Femme? (1998): “Hailed as ‘the most important album of the millennium’ by some friends of theirs.” The Butchies on their aesthetic (which has been described by fans not only as lesbocore and queercore but also as heartcore): “They are Loud and Rock and Heartfelt and in love with music.” Don’t believe it? Listen to the Durham, North Carolina, trio’s third full-length, Butchies 3. “Anything Anthology,” the opener, has the lead singer, ex-Team Dresch member Kaia Wilson (almost always described by the adoring press, from Jane to Time Out, as “foxy Kaia Wilson”), belting out, with seductive plaintiveness, “Sweet lady where’s your tricks tonight. . . . Now I’m lost and found.” A song for your summer mix tapes! The song crescendos at this kickin’ staccato part about neon tube socks (ka-ching!), a bus stop (fuck yes!), and, mysteriously but intriguingly, a girl forgetting to wear her top (yikes!), Kaia’s hard-hitting voice conveying angsty urgency with quick chants that alternate low and growling, and then high and bratty. No wonder the Butchies’ “Galaxy Is Gay” was a featured song on the pathological Party of Five (“The Kiss” episode, a-duh!).
“For Kay,” an utter lament on the state of the whole darn world (“they’re killing souls and safety, they’re killing sanity”) yet a rock song par excellence, and the poppy “IHate.com,” about being “always on a fuckin’ message board” (I can’t help thinking here of the reputed existence of the Kaia Krush Help Center, an Internet rescue operation for those obsessed with the gorgeous “hunka-hunka burnin’ punk,” as one Web page described her) rule too. The Butchies can’t be reduced to mere “heartcore”: They’re just earnest about what pisses them off. But their sense of fun is indelible, from the adorably luxuriating “The Butchies Photo Gallery” on the Mr. Lady Web site—featuring members in ties and wigs pogo sticking, hula hooping, and dressing up like pumpkins and Queen Amidala alike—to the witty pun that provides the climax for “IHate.com,” where the gentle metaphor “I’m not the only one who sits outside the sun” becomes the no-shit confrontation “I’m not the only one who sits outside your son.”
The Butchies (Wilson, Melissa York, and Alison “Big Al” Martlew) also play on five tracks of Indigo Girl Amy Ray’s unexpectedly unfolky solo venture, Stag, adding charm and volume to such catchy tracks as the indomitable “Lucystoners,” named after 19th-century suffragette Lucy Stone. The ditty has a nursery rhyme quality, but the lyrics hit where it hurts: ” ‘Cause Lucy Stoners don’t need boners,” Ray screams gleefully. At “the refrigerator down at the boys’ club, with its little magnets of poetry, they found one hundred different ways to say blow me—oh yeah, blow me now,” but Ray proposes, “I’ll give you one hundred reasons to just say no, come on girls, let’s go, right now.” And the chorus pinpoints a specific example of the music industry’s sexism: “Janny Wenner, Janny Wenner—Rolling Stone‘s most fearless leader, gave the boys what they deserve, but with the girls he lost his nerve.” Yelping, whooping cowgirl style, Ray throws in a bunch of bluesy “yeah”s, gets hoarse, wails happily, and generally has a great fucking time, with Butchies joining the jubilee at the song‘s close, clapping and laughing about those pointless hard-ons in a patty-cake session gone wild.
Ray recruited many other badasses as well, resulting in stuff like “Hey Castrator,” featuring recently bald rocker dyke Joan Jett, Kate Shellenbach (ex-Luscious Jackson), and Josephine Wiggs (ex-Breeders). Ray supposedly describes this number as the “punk/Partridge Family song,” probably because of how its mean, fast beat gives way to a melodious chorus—a pretty, expansive, almost cathartic collective sigh. Inside its eye-catching cover showing two women slow dancing—one in a satin dress, one in jeans and T-shirt and cigarette, a photo Ray herself took—Stag is a diverse non-Indigo mix (the only song that makes me go hmmm starts, “She brings me Spanish clementines, I eat them by the waterside”), intermingling Ray’s canny ear for melody with a lo-fi, raw sensibility and attitude aplenty. “The boy thinks I‘m damaged goods. I know he does and I guess he should,” she affirms in “Measure of Me.” “I dress like him, I take him down.”