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Spanking Machine

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Album Review

Courtney Love was briefly a member of Babes in Toyland in the mid-'80s, and listening to the group's debut album, Spanking Machine, more than a decade after it first came out, one can't help but wonder who ended up borrowing from whom. In many ways, Spanking Machine sounds like the blueprint for the music Love would make during Hole's first incarnation — all jagged guitars, venomous spat-out vocals, pounding drums, and pit-of-the-stomach rage. But there's no arguing that Babes in Toyland got this sound on plastic first, and this writer would contend that Spanking Machine is a more compelling and emotionally powerful work than anything Hole has ever released. Kat Bjelland's songs pull no punches, but there's a purity and razor sharp honesty to songs like "Pain in My Heart" that communicate far more than just their obvious rage and pain, and the band's blunt, muscular attack doesn't obscure the fact their best songs rock hard, and with a rugged but genuine feel for melody and swing; "He's My Thing," "Fork Down Throat," and "Dust Cake Boy" manage to be violent, abrasive, and listenable all at the same time, a fairly remarkable accomplishment. As a guitarist, Bjelland can be best described as an inspired primitive, but with the first word receiving a bit more emphasis than the second, as she serves up shards of brittle noise that cohere into something quite eloquent, and bassist Michelle Leon and drummer Lori Barbero support her with sweaty, primal ferocity. Years before anyone had uttered the words "Riot Girl," Babes in Toyland were radically redefining what women in rock could sound like, and Spanking Machine has lost none of its transgressive power with the passing of time — which can hardly be said of, say, Celebrity Skin.

Customer Reviews


This album is so much a part of me. Teenage and 20s angst at its best! Forget all the other girl bands of the 90s; Babes did it with this album. Ranks up there with Bricks are Heavy by L7 and Pretty on the Inside by Hole. One of the best from this generation.

Cranking post punk women

Clanging guitars, feral vocals, propulsive drumming, and surprisingly good tunes for this genre. if you like your rock and roll on the hard, ragged and unvarnished edge, you won't be disappointed.

Clearly the best!

Pounding the pain out of a guitar, lead singer Kat Bjelland, screams out her anguish, her anger and her frustration through aggressive lyrics, guitar riffs and backfeed. This is clearly the best album by the "Babes." A true headbanger!


Formed: 1987 in Minneapolis, MN

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s

Babes in Toyland is about as harsh as rock music gets -- guitarist Kat Bjelland screams and thrashes her guitar to the gut-pounding, throttling beat of bassist Maureen Herman and drummer Lori Barbero. Over their two albums and two EPs, the all-female trio offers no escape from their strongly female-oriented, but not necessarily feminist, rock. Bjelland formed Babes in Toyland in 1987 in Minneapolis, after playing around San Francisco for several years in various bands which featured, at various...
Full Bio
Spanking Machine, Babes In Toyland
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Customer Ratings