Wanted! Have you seen one badass bitch, strapped with a dildo and a fiddle? Bitch sports Manic Panic green dreadlocks, a tuft of hair and a snarl on her upper lip, and she jams the skirt set. Armed with words and music; she's a raunchy rabble-rouser. Reward for any tips that lead to her capture.
We are some lucky bitches, because the fiddle-playing poet half of dynamic dildo-swinging duo Bitch and Animal -- also as known as Capital B -- has finally resurfaced. Bitch is alive and well and making music again -- phew!
When B&A split in 2004, Bitch had already begun recording her solo debut with producer and rock goddess June Millington (of the first all-female rock band, Fanny). After three albums (two on Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe label), Bitch and Animal parted amicably -- there were no catfights, grandstanding, or usual (or unusual) girl drama. Perhaps coincidentally, right around the time of the duo's split, rumors had it that Animal and infomercial diva Susan Powter had hooked up. Was Powter B&A's Yoko Ono? Mum seems to be the word on that precarious collision (or should we say 'couple?').
History and myths aside, Bitch's solo debut on Kill Rock Stars, Make This/Break This, is a solid venture into the head, heart and soul of a badass poetess extraordinaire. She's upgraded the politically punchy and renegade slapstick poetry of B&A (as well as its sexual prowess) to include a personal diary entry of a mature, evolving, feminist of the world -- while still rocking the moniker and persona that is Bitch, of course.
"It's really exciting for me right now," Bitch recently told me as she navigated traffic in Portland, Oregon (no, she wasn't behind the wheel!). Doing the solo thing has its demands, of course. She's now front-and-center all of the time, unlike when she shared duties with Animal. "I feel like I'm being forced in a way to take up more space than I have before, as far as being the person who makes all of the decisions and deciding what we play and all of that stuff. It definitely feels more vulnerable right now."
The obvious difference between Bitch's solo record and the three B&A releases is in the simmered-down aggression. It's still mouthy and strong, but with more subtle wordplay and a softer playfulness. Where B&A was off-the-cuff, Bitch alone is a spot more refined. Where B&A shoved their dildos down listeners' throats, Bitch croons about them.
"I feel like this record is definitely a more personal album than I've ever made," she said. "This record is more like a diary, where Bitch and Animal was more of a dialogue."
The title track, "Make This/Break This," reads like an ode to the trials and tribulations of the professional and personal relationship with Animal. She sings, "Where did our love go? / Just got lost on the road / down the long, dark highway of our backs."
Still wearing her politics like armor on "Rise," Bitch takes on George Bush and the war machine. In a poignant observation, she sings, "George Bush is as evil as Saddam / It takes one to know one." Then, as a call to action, she sings, "Don't dare me to rise cuz I'll rise." Not that she expects very many Republicans at a Bitch show. At a recent performance, some concertgoers confronted her politics, asking her if she'd sing that song in Iraq. She said, "Yeah." They asked her, "Do you think the people in Iraq would appreciate that?" She said, "Yeah." And then Bitch realized that they were talking about the soldiers and she was talking about the people of Iraq. "They weren't actually acknowledging that there are actual civilians living there and that we're completely occupying their country."
The short but haunting ode to Aileen Wuornos puts prospective on Wuornos' unfortunate strife and situation. "Landmass" began as a poem that Bitch thought she'd just read, but after recording some interesting music with Millington, it poured out of her as a song. Bitch tackles the juxtaposition of urban life versus rural living.
About the only unexpected part of the whole album is how Bitch's instrument playing is used more as an underscore rather than a showcase. She straps on an electric violin, a ukulele and a bass guitar, but it's her poetry that is put out front. Bitch says this was Millington's idea. "That was June's vision for this record. She wanted to highlight the poet in me. I remember her always saying 'You're a poet, you're a poet! Let's make this a poetry album.' I think certain aspects of that are interesting and there's also parts of it that I wish I would have rocked a little more, or whatever it is. There's always the next record for that stuff. It's always the thing when you make a record. I'm just so excited to make the next one now because the next one I really want to highlight the music," she explains.
The last track, "The Most Powerful Thing That Ever Happened in the Entire World," leaves the listener with a very personal glimpse into Bitch's world. Sprinkled in as the track's vocals are voicemail messages left for her by friends and loved ones. This shout-out to her peeps has a beautiful and delicate musical backdrop that is goose-bump material.
When Bitch's androgynous girlfriend Daniela Sea became the new hot thing on the third season of lesbian Showtime series The L Word, they became an unlikely lesbian poster-couple. Bitch and Sea have been working on a screenplay, and Bitch has a part (as herself) in the new John Cameron Mitchell flick, Shortbus, which debuted at Cannes this year. Bitch is a graduate of the former Goodman School of Drama (Depaul) in Chicago and met Animal in acting school, so it's not too surprising that dramatics still figure in her creative work spectrum.
Bitch's live persona is pretty, well, bitchy. When I first saw her perform -- after having interviewed her on the phone a couple of times and heard the B&A albums -- it was fascinating to watch this larger-than-life character take form onstage. In conversation, she isn't exactly shy and demure, but comes off less bitchy and more as just a pleasant and strong-minded woman. When the switch flips onstage, a commanding dominatrix-like Bitch takes over and she becomes the kind of gal you'd want on the other end of a strap-on.
Bitch plays the Visulite Theater, opening for Melissa Ferrick; Dec. 8; 9 p.m.; $13 adv-$15 d.o.s.; www.visulite.com.