It was 1995, and I was a moody little shit lodged in the hemorrhoidal clench of suburban New Jersey. I was predictably histrionic, but I guess I had reason to be: neurobiological fuckery and routine bouts of intestinal turbulence hijacked my life beginning at age 12. I thought my troubles would have eased at least a little by high school. They hadn't. I went from being a moody little shit to being a moody little shit who was also a raging insomniac. By the time I was a senior, I hated almost everything and everyone.
Vulgar, dark punk rock made by terrifying, delinquent young women was part of the self-prescribed treatment plan that helped keep me from going the Girl, Interrupted route. My quest for an antidote to the gloom took place most often at CD World, then located on Route 17 in Paramus, New Jersey. (It's now a Dunkin' Donuts.) It smelled weird, had weird people working there, and stocked weird albums, but to me, it may as well have been Lourdes. By the time high school was over, I had sworn a blood oath to Hole, L7, Lunachicks, Babes in Toyland, and 7 Year Bitch—bands whose vitriol offered me scarce semblances of grace in between trips to the toilet and prolonged episodes of self-loathing.
Of those bands, the Lunachicks were the crudest, funniest, freakiest, and most obnoxious punks. They were absolutely fucking perfect. The day I became aware of them was one of those life-changing moments that was fantastic and exhilarating but also really fucking annoying because it hadn't happened sooner.
One Saturday afternoon while I was at CD World flipping through the "L" section of plastic CD cases, I came across Jerk of All Trades. The cover showed a blonde lady with eyes like tarantulas and wearing a diner-waitress outfit. Her body appeared to be mid-stroke. The title was displayed ransom note–style, and Lunachicks was written in dripping red letters across a giant bone. First impression: this was not going to be some Little Earthquakes or Pieces of You or Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. This band considered its image to be about as precious as a cold turd. I had high hopes for excellence.
The back cover of the CD was a band photo. To my delight, the Lunachicks were all girls. This mattered. Sisters doin' everything for themselves was a big deal. By the looks of it, they were reform-school escapees posing as a circus sideshow gang—a colorful smear of clown makeup, tattoos, feather boas, leopard-print rags, and drag-queen hair. They were GG Allin's and Cyndi Lauper's aborted babies full-grown. They looked goofy, mean, and like they would fucking beat the motherfucking shit out of any foolish fuck fucking dumb enough to fucking step to them. Together, they possessed the kind of self-assured power I could only dream about. I need this, I thought. I hadn't even heard a lick of music.
CD World let you listen to CDs before you bought them, so I handed Jerk to the mouthbreather at the register and asked for headphones. I should have asked for a diaper—the first few seconds of "Drop Dead" charged at me like a demonic marching band on methamphetamines. I didn't know whether to fall to my knees or crap myself or both. The term "bowled-over" feels appropriate. Then the singing started. No screaming or sneering or shrieking—it was singing. The oddball voice was low, comical, and utterly bananas. It had an operatic resonance that pushed the music into new parts of my brain and bowels. And the lyrics, holy shit, the lyrics.
Don't you fuck with us
We will follow you onto the bus
Fart right in your face
And look out because
Should've worn Tussy like your mama said
Then maybe you wouldn't be dead
We can be worst-er!
- "Drop Dead"
Wait, there's more.
Only want what you can't have and babe
What you can't have is me
I don't care who you are
What the fuck you want from me?
Dis me once, dis me twice
I don't think that's very nice
Punch you in your stupid face
I shit on you and it feels great!
There was also a song about buttplugs. I stood there, really unsuccessfully stifling my laughter and instead blasting damp, half-formed snorts from my nose and mouth, but I wasn't laughing because of the potty humor; I was laughing because I was freaking the fuck out.
Though the Lunachicks looked demented, none of this was actually a joke. Not only were they comedic geniuses, but they also had chops and songwriting smarts that clobbered those of their contemporaries. But what truly shook me to my core was the realization that the Lunachicks were masters of subversiveness. "Fallopian Rhapsody" was a seething, threatening pro-choice rally cry; "Jerk of All Trades" extolled women's prowess; "Bitterness Barbie" attacked idiotic beauty standards ("What if I had a mastectomy? Would they buy a one-titted Barbie?"). Despite their penchant for hostile flatulence and retaliatory defecation, these severely pissed-off feminists were in complete control of their faculties. In their eyes, they were nothing less than fuckin' awesome, and anyone who didn't treat them as such was not simply an enemy, but a live target. This band had assloads of ammo (no, really), and they were going to use it. Each song made me want to hurl myself into the Astro-Creep: 2000 display and karate kick a giant hole through the head of Rob Zombie. Instead, I just stood there dumbfounded and took in as much of their awesomeness as I could.
My heart swelled. This band understood anger and resentment, but they also reveled in absurdity—and they rocked so friggin' hard. I paid the cashier, took home this crown jewel, and played that damn album 'til every bark, belch, and bellow was absorbed into my being. Somehow, the Lunachicks made me feel less defective as a young woman. To this day—almost 20 years later—Jerk of All Trades makes me laugh so hard I sound like a hammered donkey, AND it makes me want to fuck shit up, AND it makes me feel a thousand feet tall. From now 'til whenever, no matter what band crosses my path, the Lunachicks will forever be worst-er.