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A devastating battle with Lyme disease forced Kathleen Hanna off the stage for seven years. But the feminist icon is back with the Julie Ruin, a five-piece reimagining of her 1997 solo bedroom project.
Renowned for her ferocious presence, the ex-Bikini Kill and Le Tigre leader sounds as energetic in her 40s as she did in her 20s, but now the artistic thrust is more about soul-searching than world-changing.
The challenge for Hanna is to sound fresh without being overly derivative of her old bands. She mostly succeeds, pairing guitarist Sara Landeau's jaunty riffs with elastic analog grooves on hooky bangers like Cookie Road. Hanna is as big on girlie harmonies as she was in Le Tigre, but Kenny Mellman's callbacks introduce a male/female dynamic reminiscent of the B-52s.
The album also contains some of her best lyrics. The most stirring are in the ballads: the existential lament on aging Goodnight Goodbye; the emotionally charged title track, a vivid post-punk mission statement that ends the party on a cathartic note.
Top track: Lookout