Fierce New Petrol Girls Single ‘Preachers’ Confronts the Culture of Toxic Divisiveness

Above image by Hannah Fasching

That the socio-political backdrop to our 2022 has included entering the third year of a deadly and badly handled COVID crisis, the apparent widespread commitment of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, and serious threats to women’s rights and LGBTQ protections around the world, should have engendered untold anger amongst the more liberal-minded cultural classes. And yet everyone still seems to be writing…”breakup” albums.

But that British punkers Petrol Girls are not taking it lying down should surely come as no surprise. They played their first shambolic London gig after just two rehearsals to celebrate International Women’s Day in 2012; and their name was actually inspired by the Pétroleuses, the incendiary female supporters of the radical Paris Commune in 1871. Their most recent single, ‘Baby, I Had an Abortion’, was an unflinching defense of a woman’s right to choose (which in America, make no mistake, is about to go away).

And now they’re back with the fierce new track ‘Preachers’, which addresses the current culture of toxic divisiveness, whereby everyone seems to be always at the ready to attack, when what we really need to be doing is defending – especially when it comes to marginalized communities. It opens with a rather blunt but incisive lyrical observation:

“There’s a lot of preachers here but I don’t see no saints
Lot of fingers pointing / palms sweating under red paint”

“I get very frustrated by the lack of nuance sometimes,” explains vocalist Ren Aldridge, “and the way people seem so much more interested in punishing individuals than building resilient communities of care. And I hate the way that women and marginalized genders are held to such a way higher standard than cis-men.”

Musically, it’s a relentless barrage of jagged post-punk sonics, thrillingly recalling the likes of X-Ray Spex and The Slits. Both songs are taken from Petrol Girls‘ new album Baby, which sees release via Hassle Records this Friday, June 24. Aldridge explains it as a kind of exigent, almost inevitable musical catharsis, meant to clear away the mental debris built up as a result of a decade of not backing down from an ideological fight.

“I just really needed to reject this pressure to always act and speak completely perfectly, which has had a severe impact on my mental health, by putting me in a constant state of hyper-vigilance. For me, our new album is so much about recovering from that severe depressive episode, and a crucial part of that was saying ‘Fuck it, I will never do enough, I will always make mistakes, but as long as I am true to my values and reflective that’s fucking fine.’”

In fact, if one needed a guiding philosophy for the difficult days ahead, that would certainly seem like a good place to start.

(N.B. Petrol Girls will sporadically tour the UK and Europe this summer and fall, including a stop at Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Festival on September 21.)

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