Jenn Pelly

Jenn Pelly is a Contributing Editor at Pitchfork and author of The Raincoats, a volume in the 33 ⅓ series on the British feminist punk band. Her writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, SPIN, The Wire, The Village Voice, and Teen Vogue. She lives in New York.

"In the Sea of Possibility: Feminine Punk After Patti"
In 1976, surrounding her sophomore album Radio Ethiopia, Patti Smith told Sounds journalist Vivien Goldman, “This album is I think much more feminine than the first album… the rhythm, it’s more like an ocean.” For Patti, Radio Ethiopia track “Poppies” was “really totally feminine,” and every woman was “like a bottomless pit, [who] can take infinite amounts of creative fluids, have it injected in their system, then spit it out again.”

In this paper, I’ll trace how Patti Smith inspired and considerably influenced the first wave of feminist-punk instigators, specifically London bands The Slits and The Raincoats. But rather than look at their better-known debut albums, I’ll explore their more adventurous (and more often overlooked) sophomore records. I’ll tease out telling similarities between Radio Ethiopia, The Slits’ 1981 LP Return of the Giant Slit, and The Raincoats’ Odyshape, released the same year. Looking at shared qualities among them—their fractured and diffuse rhythms, their episodic structures, their connections to the Earth—will reveal telling patterns. What makes these forms feminine? What did it mean to grow into feminine punk languages? And how do the achievements of these albums contribute to our collective reconsideration of musical genius? I’ll investigate these questions and more.