Politics are an inherent part of punk and hardcore culture, but not even the most ardent fans like feeling preached to, especially by artists who seem more focused on their messaging than on their music. On their new full-length, Baby, British-Austrian postpunk band Petrol Girls step away from all that (and even poke fun at their own bouts of sanctimony) to churn out a set of songs that turn up the party vibes without toning down the politics. Their tunes can sound joyful even when they take direct aim at deathly serious topics such as the carceral state and the exploitation of crime victims and survivors; they also highlight how absurd it is that, in the so-called civilized world, anyone has to fight for basic human rights and dignity in the first place. Lead single “Baby, I Had an Abortion” is an absolute banger with a gritty guitar hook that could stick in your head for days, with lyrics by front woman Ren Aldridge about her experience encountering anti-abortion protesters after she underwent the procedure in 2018. The indignant “Fight for Our Lives” features guest vocals from feminist organizer Janey Starling, whose Dignity for Dead Women Campaign with Level Up (referenced in the lyrics) made inroads for better reporting practices on gender-based violence in the UK. That song provides one of the album’s most powerful moments of catharsis: Aldridge screams “You don’t own us” at anyone who would try to control women and force them into a life of fear. The stripped-down, live-sounding production, which doesn’t airbrush out imperfections, underscores the urgency of the material—even in the Petrol Girls’ missteps, their passion comes through loud and clear.
Petrol Girls’s Baby is out 6/24 via Bandcamp.