Douglas Martin’s Dirty Shoes: Childbirth, Seattle’s Sarcastic Super-Group

Members of Chastity Belt, Tacocat and Pony Time team up to make one of the year's funniest and most subversive albums.
By    October 2, 2015


Douglas Martin has one dope jacket per dirty shoe

Humor is the fastest way to cut to the crux of truth. There’s a Seattle band of whom you will hear much of the terms “humor” and “feminism” going to bed together, more than likely every review of this group you will read. Their name is Childbirth, and they’re less a regular-old band than a Seattle punk supergroup.

Julia Shapiro plays guitar and sings; she’s in the hotly-tipped and Death Cab for Cutie-endorsed Chastity Belt, a band who released Time to Go Home, one of the year’s best rock albums. Bree McKenna plays bass and sings; she’s a card-carrying member of Tacocat, a band who should already be considered local legends. Stacy Peck plays drums; she’s one-half of Pony Time, a band many people in and out of town consider to be Seattle’s best band. Put together their immense individual talents and accomplishments and you basically have the Megazord of what’s cool to listen to in Seattle right now.

But Childbirth isn’t a complimentary dish to the thing you really want (i.e. what the Dead Weather was to virtually everything else Jack White does), it’s its own main course. People will repeat and repeat and repeat about how funny Childbirth is (as I myself have just repeated), but all the bands they came from are funny. Pony Time’s sense of humor comes with a drop of acidity, Chastity Belt’s jokes are tempered by existential woe, and Tacocat’s outrageous hilarity leads to songs like “Crimson Wave,” without question the catchiest song written ever about menstrual blood. Childbirth is funny in a different way; they’re often satirical, but more often than not, you can find the humanity in their comedy without any effort.

The album-opening title-track doesn’t do that whatsoever. It’s just a catchy-ass punk tune with the easiest lyrics to remember since Vivian Girls dropped “No” on their classic debut. (Which, coincidentally, is their standard album intro. Switch out “women’s rights!” for “it’s a girl!” and you have the opening track of their debut cassette release, known most notably for the timeless classic, “I Only Fucked You As a Joke.”)

But elsewhere, little moments of merriment are captured: Cool moms who buy their children cigarettes and condoms are memorialized, coke is brought to a baby shower, stepdads get read the riot act, one song (“Siri, Open Tinder”) is what we do on barstools when we’re waiting for our friends to come back from the bathroom. Though “Baby Bump” is more than a song about bringing coke to a baby shower; it’s the moment in a friendship where you realize there’s a gulf; your friend’s impending life-changing responsibility and you’re hoping you don’t have to pay a hiked rate on Uber at 5 in the morning or get busted on misdemeanor possession charges.

Childbirth are also deft observers of Seattle’s current cultural climate. Tech bros, who have overrun the neighborhoods of Seattle with their distaste for the weirdness of our punk scene and Microsoft/Amazon/Google campus lanyards, are turned into the subject of a love song (of course it’s the one called “Tech Bro”) where the protagonist does laundry in his condo, offering a compromise in the path of temporary highlife: “I’ll let you explain feminism to me / if I can use your HDTV.”

Along with the rapidly multiplying species of tech bros are #woogirls, whose most debaucherous indulgences are documented in “Let’s Be Bad.”

Let’s be bad and split a dessert
Let’s treat ourselves, we can be
Late for work […]

Let’s indulge ourselves tonight
I’ll order a couple of white wines
Let’s be bad, we deserve it
Let’s wear skirts that barely fit

Whether or not you want to engage in Gender Studies 101 with a cis-gendered dude, it’s easily apparent Women’s Rights is the act of women recording songs about what it’s like to be a woman, in an incredibly hysterical way.

Think about the way Childbirth write a song titled “Nasty Girls” and think about the way a dude would write about a song called “Nasty Girls.” It’s very likely the latter would never think to scribe “We clip our nails on the bus / Our cuts are oozing with puss” in their first draft, let alone the final cut. “I’m More Fertile Than You” is a rap-braggadocio-style song about a woman who is … well, you can probably guess. The opening line, “Well there’s a test I know I can pass,” is masterfully employed. There’s a song seemingly torn from the diary of a pre-pubescent girl, full of rage and vitrol directed (er, more like subtweeted) at a girl who “think she’s hot shit ‘cause she wears a bra […] and uses tampons.”

“Since When Are You Gay” (featuring another Seattle rising star, Lisa Prank, on vocals) is the most slyly satirical song on the album, skewering notions of basics wrestling with the concept of bisexuality and quoting something they might have heard from Kurt Cobain: “Well, everyone is gay anyway.”

There’s also a note-perfect parody of a Best Coast song, right down to the cookie-cutter song-structure and lyrics so vague they have to had been written in the time it takes to microwave a bag of popcorn. Sample lyrics: “Hanging out, doing stuff / With my boyfriend / Hanging out, with my boyfriend / I love him ‘cause he’s hot.” Did you just laugh out loud? It’s okay, we cracked the Best Coast code around the release of her second album. It’s all in good fun,

Women’s Rights is one of the best and most important punk albums of the year not because of some implied notion of social liberation high-falutin types will institute upon you. It’s one of the best and most important punk albums of the year because there’s no punk album coming out this year this catchy, funny, or easily relatable. Women’s Rights defends a woman’s right to be whoever she wants to be, especially if that girl is your hysterical, mischievous-but-well-intentioned friend who brings cocaine to your baby shower.

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