- Portland Arms, Cambridge 30.8.16

The Baby Seals are easily the best girl group in Cambridge this minute and actually for a long, long while. Although they only have one drum beat, it doesn’t matter, because they have songs about lop-sided labia, equal pay and that age-old problem, cum on the facial area. A trio with a clear message (mostly that they don’t give a shit what they sing about), it might sound funny but they are actually really good and not in a gimmicky Goldie Looking Chain type-way either. They seriously ‘rock’ in final track ‘It’s not about the money, honey’, a bit like Giant Drag (remember them?), with the kitsch pop of The Pipettes pretty evident elsewhere, just replacing the strings, horns and polka dots with punk (you’d probably prefer not to remember them!). And you can catch The Baby Seals at a gig near you somewhere soon as they seem to be everywhere. Make sure you do.


And the political messaging continues next through the medium of screaming/shouting/getting all in your face. Petrol Girls take their name from Les Pétroleuses, a group of women who used to make explosives out of milk bottles in Paris back in the day, because they were pissed off with the state of the world. Very much embodying that feeling over 100 years later, singer Ren Aldridge is a seething little ball of hairy-pitted rage, leading her noisy group of post-hardcore troubadours in a set that tackles rape and refugees, amongst other cheery topics. But it’s not all highbrow antics here, with a few David Brent moments where said frontwoman does a long monologue about what the song is about, in a surprisingly twee accent for someone so growly. Yes, Petrol Girls are a thinking-musos bit of crumpet, who, if they hone their songwriting skills that bit more, would be a really exciting force to be reckoned with.


Because I have to admit that, at times, I felt like I was watching a gig in a school hall, complete with dodgy dancers at the front battling some furious time signature changes. Though the guitarist needs another plan for when he breaks a string (how long can the rest of the band improvise without us wanting to throw our own explosives?) and the bassist looks like she just learnt to play, it looks like they’re taking this seriously so who knows whether they will become as notorious as their namesakes? With their heavy, heavy take on girl power, borrowing from the best bits of riot grrl groups like Bikini Kill, they also cite lots of other more obscure peers (and At The Drive In), so, if you like your frontwomen unhinged and flexible, your rock and roll combined with a mini-lecture about mental health, get dahn the front next time Petrol Girls are in tahn.

Anna C