With a sigh and a roll of the eyes, It’s a Girl!, the debut album by Seattle threepiece Childbirth, traffics in disillusionment with heroes, the exhaustion of keeping the ignorant up to speed, and the frustrating challenge of living up to one's own values. Childbirth takes up the task with snotty, two-chord aggression, holding nothing nothing sacred, particularly Feminism as it is interpreted in the mainstream. It's a Girl! underscores and even embraces all the internal conflicts and hypocrisies inherent to these conversations. More importantly, it emphasizes the humanity of everyone involved in the discussion. Coming in at just over 17 minutes in length, It's A Girl! plays like a hit list; a litany of the band's disappointments. Though this rapid fire attack seems to end as soon as it begins, the band's on-the-nose analysis makes it worth it to keep up.
Childbirth's tongue in cheek approach should come as no surprise, given the bands’s pedigree. The band is comprised of Julia Shapiro of Chastity Belt, Bree McKenna of Tacocat, and Stacy Peck of Pony Time. As a Seattle supergroup, Childbirth are the sum of their native bands' best qualities. Taken on their own, Childbirth are nothing less than a bleeding edge iteration of the Riot Grrrl movement, which was born 20 years ago and 70 miles south in Olympia, Washington.
It’s a Girl! is a mixed bag. Structurally, it's often hard to follow the running monologues and dialogues. While the conversational style makes for a compelling metaphor for the competing voices on the topics at hand, it lends confusion to hear them coming from the same person. It's A Girl! illuminates issues, those issues that call for illumination and gleefully shuttles the superficial from the conversation. It does so with humor, while underscoring and even embracing all the inherent conflicts and hypocrisies therein. Among those taken to task by Childbirth are the naively ignorant and those unwilling to educate themselves, even with the tools to do so available to them. “How Do Girls Even Do It” expresses frustration at the probing questions asked of lesbians. Though posed in an innocuous tone, the song seems to posit that inquiries into the mechanics of intercourse are invasive, obnoxious, and seem to place the recipient of these questions into the role of sexual curiosity. It rejects that any onus should be placed on anyone to explain, or, by implication, justify any action, to anyone. In true valley girl cadence, dripping with privilege, the question is posed “I don’t get it, how do girls even have sex?” “I don't really feel like talking about it right this second, maybe I'll explain it to you later,” Shapiro responds, irked and exhausted.
The band is even less forgiving of women who they feel are not living up to their status as role models. “Marination Station” makes clear reference to the tragic and tawdry fall from grace of astronaut Lisa Nowak, in which she was charged with the attempted kidnapping of the U.S. Air Force Captain, the girlfriend of a fellow astronaut for whom Nowak had feelings. “She’s a disgrace to all women in space,” Shapiro howls, vexed that a female hero is reduced to a diaper-wearing punchline.
Despite the all the critiques they issue, Childbirth are hardest on themselves. The album’s first proper song, “I Only Fucked You As a Joke,” is the best example. Here, Shapiro attempts to distance herself from regret by framing her decisions as ironic, but it quickly becomes apparent that no amount of snark, no amount of justification, can insulate us from the consequences of our actions. It speaks to a conflict between personal desire and a desire to embody a political ideal “Oh, I hope I’m not pregnant/‘Cos I don’t wanna have your kid.” The conflict is deeply felt in the song’s angular guitar crunch. The song manages to land on a note of selfforgiveness. “Oohhh baby/I can’t make good decisions every day!” In this forgiveness lies the core of the album’s sentiment. It’s a Girl! is evidence of the progress made on the front of the LGBT and Feminist rights championed by Riot Grrrl. Childbirth takes the stands that bands like Bikini Kill made as victories. Moreoever, the band expresses some exhaustion at the idea that dispute of the victories would even bear discussion. As such , they are free to approach the subjects at hand with the most effective tool of all: a sense of humor.