Kleenex/LiliPUT Live Recordings, TV-Clips & Roadmovie

[Kill Rock Stars; 2010]

Styles: proto-riot grrl, post punk
Others: The Slits, The Raincoats, Sleater Kinney, The Pussy Pirates

It feels reductive to speak about the significance of Kleenex only in the context of their impact on other women. Still, it takes no effort whatsoever to hear echoes of this band in the tradition of girl punk that has unfurled over the past 20 years. Like The Slits and The Raincoats, the other two points on the triad of female punk, Kleenex took a kitchen-sink approach to rock ‘n’ roll, incorporating keyboards, violins, and saxophones into their spastic sonic gumbo. But equally important was the worldview they brought to their music. They were driven by the same leftist politics and feminist ideals as their contemporaries, but hot dammit, they were going to have some fun bucking the system. This penchant for playful subversion and boffo protest filtered down to artists as diverse as Stereolab, Huggy Bear, and Mess up the Mess.

It’s only fair, then, that Kill Rock Stars would continue to keep the band’s legacy alive through this career-spanning document of their live performances. True to its slavishly literal title, the CD/DVD package Live Recordings, TV-Clips & Roadmovie collects rare audio and video footage of the band from its inception as Kleenex in 1978, through their permutation into LiliPUT in 1980, to their ultimate disbanding in 1983. Like any good live album, this one provides welcome insight into the artists recording it, but like most others, it lacks the focus and charisma to stand on its own apart from the rest of their catalogue.

The CD portion of Live Recordings captures two concerts from the discreet phases of the band’s career. The Kleenex show from 1979 is, predictably, the rougher of the two, both in terms of the sound quality and in the lurching melodies that flit between tempos like a capricious toddler sifting through the contents of their parents’ junk drawer. The LiliPUT show from 1983 offers a crisper recording appropriate to the more meticulously constructed songs the band was producing at the time. Where original vocalist Regula Sing would spit her lines out like she was issuing a challenge, Astrid Spirit more often emphasized melody in service of the music’s poppier elements (although her yelps and hollers on songs like “Do You Mind My Dream” and “The Jatz” should be sufficient to muddy any easy distinctions). The combination of the two performances reveals the commonalities between the band’s formative years and its later work: the playfulness, the repetitive rhythms, the essential elements of funk.

As with most live albums, the intended audience here is the super-fans, and this one does offer some unexpected treats for them, including live renditions of five never-released songs: “Geierwally,” “Pink Hit,” “Lust,” “Take a Taste of My Mind,” and “Where Do You Find the Time.” The tracks are worthy additions to the band’s cannon, but you won’t find a new “Hedi’s Head” or “Die Matrosen” there. In the same vein, the DVD boasts footage that should excite the die-hards, but offers less to the merely curious. The “Roadmovie” is a 20-minute compilation of footage taken on a super-8 by the band during their European tour in 1982. It’s a charming and intimate view of the band, but probably not something most of us will watch more than once. Two of the Kleenex videos come from what must have been a very early TV appearance by the band from 1978. They come off as somewhat stiff, particularly Sing, who hardly so much as sways behind the mic. Much more exhilarating is the three-song set from 1980. The addition of saxophonist Angie Barrack combined with LiliPUT’s increased confidence contribute to a more engaging performance, but it’s the sight of singer Chringle Freund stealing drags off her cigarette between her lines in “Die Matrosen” that gives the set such a magnetic quality.

Kleenex/LiliPUT was such a critically important force in the evolution of punk rock that it’s almost unthinkable that no official live album has been issued until now. But while I feel that it’s essential such a document should exist, it’s not necessarily essential for everyone to own a copy of it. I suspect that most fans will get all the LiliPUT they need from the band’s double-disc complete discography (also available through KRS). Those who are still hungry for more, however, will welcome the insight that the performances captured here will afford them into this short-lived but indelible monument of Swiss punk.

Links: Kleenex/LiliPUT - Kill Rock Stars

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