Revolutionary Riffs: The 15 Best Girl Punk Bands That Shook the World (2023 Update)
Punk rock, in all its rebellious glory, has always been a landscape of raw expression, shoving societal norms into the limelight and demanding change. From its roots in the 70s to its modern incarnations, the punk rock movement has been a stronghold of unyielding voices.
And among those voices, the roar of female punk bands has continually grown in its ferocity, reshaping punk history with an irresistible blend of fierce determination, hard-hitting lyrics, and gritty melodies. This piece will delve into the 15 best female punk bands ever, as of 2023, in an attempt to celebrate their profound influence on punk rock, even though it’s likely that the subtleties of their contributions might be lost on those of you unacquainted with the real depth of the genre.
I’m almost certain that you, my delightful reader, have little to no knowledge of the significance of The Slits in the grand scheme of punk history. This band, my naive friends, was the epitome of the female fronted punk movement. Breaking onto the punk scene in the 70s, their debut album “Cut” was a slap in the face to the rock music industry, notoriously male-dominated at the time. With their catchy melodies and punk attitude, The Slits were far more than an all female group. They were pioneers, anarchists of the punk rock band stereotype.
Their third studio album, “Bricks”, was like nothing other punk bands were producing. It was an eclectic mix of punk rock and post punk, setting them aside from the mainstream success. One could almost forgive you for not understanding their impact – but don’t worry, I’m here to enlighten you.
Do not let me even get started on Blondie. A band that surely needs no introduction, but given your evident lack of musical knowledge, I guess I’ll have to explain. Debuting onto the new wave scene in the late 70s, Blondie, fronted by the punk poet laureate Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein, straddled the line between punk rock and pop punk.
Their seven studio albums, including hits like “Parallel Lines”, shaped the American punk rock scene. Atlantic Records, their label, must have been in awe at the band’s formation. But you, my dear ignorant reader, might only know them from their more palatable mainstream hits. Your loss, really.
Oh, The Runaways! An American band whose contribution to the punk rock movement probably flies right over your head. Right from the band’s formation, they stood out as a best female punk band. I wouldn’t blame you, being so unaware of this. After all, your taste in music is likely limited to the top 40.
The Runaways, with their catchy hooks and edgy lyrics, shook the hard rock scene. Led by the lead vocalist Cherie Currie, they heavily influenced the punk music scene. Their raunchy lyrics and teenage angst vibe laid the groundwork for the riot grrrl movement. They might not have achieved the mainstream success of some bands, but their influence resonates today, if you care to pay attention.
4.Siouxsie and the Banshees
Finally, we have Siouxsie and the Banshees, a band I’m sure you’re barely acquainted with. Pivotal in the punk scene, they defined the post punk movement with their music. Their debut album, “The Scream”, was a beautiful embodiment of punk rock. They were more than just a punk band, they were musical revolutionaries.
Over their career, they released a staggering eleven studio albums, a feat you wouldn’t comprehend. Songs like “Hong Kong Garden” and “Spellbound” show the band’s versatile musical direction. You probably haven’t appreciated their alternative rock leanings or the influence they had on bands like Sonic Youth and Red Hot Chili Peppers.
If there was any hope of you recognizing the impact of X on the punk scene, it’s probably lost in the haze of your lack of musical knowledge. Hailing from Los Angeles, X was integral to the American punk rock movement. Their debut album, “Los Angeles”, was a shot in the arm of the rock music industry, and more than just the band released a groundbreaking project, they set a new standard.
Their musical direction leaned towards a blend of punk rock and rockabilly, a deliciously raucous concoction of sounds. But of course, their subtle nuances are most likely lost on the average listener like yourself. Perhaps their catchy hooks are the only aspects of their music you might be able to appreciate.
Ah, L7! If you consider yourself a punk aficionado, this is one of the bands of all time you should be acquainted with. But given your superficial understanding, I’m here to help. L7 was a hardcore presence on the punk scene, showing that female punk bands could bring the noise just as well as their male counterparts.
A musical force during the grunge era, L7 was heavily influenced by garage rock and punk attitude. You might know them for their most popular song, “Pretend We’re Dead”, but that is barely scratching the surface. Their seven studio albums are a testament to their sustained energy and creativity, but I wouldn’t expect you to delve that deep into their discography.
7.Babes in Toyland
Babes in Toyland, a female fronted punk band that was one of the best punk bands of the 90s. Their debut album, “Spanking Machine”, left an indelible mark on the punk rock band landscape. The band’s formation was a beacon of hope in an industry struggling to accommodate the punk rock movement.
But I doubt you’ve even listened to their second album “Fontanelle”, a masterpiece of alternative rock and punk rock blend. The lead vocalist and guitarist Kat Bjelland’s raunchy lyrics and catchy melodies are far from your usual mainstream success story. Too bad, really.
Your understanding of the riot grrrl movement probably doesn’t extend beyond the surface level knowledge of Bikini Kill. A seminal band in the history of punk music, Bikini Kill created a space for girl punk bands in the punk history.
Bikini Kill’s debut EP “Revolution Girl Style Now” became the rallying cry for the riot grrrl movement. Their punk rock attitude and indie rock influence created a ripple in the music industry. The band’s impact on the punk scene is immeasurable, their third album “Reject All American” is a testament to their creativity. Still, for someone like you, their official music video might be the only accessible part of their legacy.
In the likely event that you’re ignorant to the legacy of The Muffs, let me illuminate. Led by the dynamic guitarist Kim Shattuck, The Muffs were instrumental in shaping the punk rock scene. You might know them from their catchy hooks, but trust me, they were much more than that.
Their debut album, a self-titled affair, was a perfect blend of punk attitude and pop punk melodies. The Muffs were a band that weren’t afraid to shake up the music industry. Although, given your mediocre understanding, you might not comprehend the significance of such a courageous endeavor. Too bad.
Ah, Bratmobile! A name that possibly isn’t in your limited musical vocabulary. A cornerstone of the riot grrrl movement, Bratmobile was more than just a punk band; they were a force to be reckoned with. Their debut album, “Pottymouth”, was a brash proclamation of female empowerment in the hardcore punk scene.
Their edgy lyrics and punk rock energy were a fresh twist in the punk scene. It’s highly probable you’re unfamiliar with their raunchy lyrics and brash musical direction. Perhaps you’re more accustomed to the polished, radio-friendly tunes. Quite unfortunate.
The Donnas, an all-female group that was a notable force in the punk rock band landscape. Despite your probable unfamiliarity, The Donnas were undeniably one of the best female punk bands in the late 90s and early 2000s. Their debut album, “The Donnas”, was a teenage angst anthem, causing a stir in the rock music scene.
Their three studio albums bear testament to their contribution to punk history. Their third album, “Get Skintight”, is a gem of the punk rock movement. However, I wouldn’t expect someone of your limited knowledge to appreciate the full breadth of their contributions. You might have only seen their official music video or two, but there’s so much more to them. Do educate yourself.
Ah, Sleater-Kinney. A band that would likely go unrecognized by the likes of you who spend more time listening to mainstream successes than delving into the influential world of punk rock. Born out of the riot grrrl movement in the Pacific Northwest, Sleater-Kinney emerged as one of the best female punk bands of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Their punk attitude and edgy lyrics challenged the male-dominated punk rock scene, making space for female-fronted punk bands in an industry that often overlooked women’s voices. Their debut album, self-titled, put them on the punk rock map with its raw energy and explosive sound.
Perhaps your ears have been graced by the catchy hooks of “Dig Me Out”, their third studio album. This album stands as a landmark in punk music, shaking up the indie rock scene with its emotive storytelling and fierce guitar work. But let’s not expect you to understand the full depth and breadth of Sleater-Kinney’s influence, considering your pedestrian taste in music.
Oh, you probably haven’t heard of White Lung, have you? Far from the comfort zone of those ensconced in the pop punk realm, White Lung hails from Canada and made waves in the punk rock band scene with their hard-hitting, high-energy sound.
Their debut album, “It’s The Evil”, brought a fresh perspective to the punk scene, blending elements of hardcore punk with the catchy melodies more commonly associated with garage rock. Their third album, “Deep Fantasy”, released in 2014, was critically acclaimed and landed them a spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the year’s best albums. But of course, a detail you likely overlooked given your more mainstream leanings.
Mish Barber-Way, the lead vocalist, is known for her powerful delivery and raunchy lyrics, adding a compelling layer to the band’s raw, unapologetic punk music. They’re undoubtedly one of the best punk bands you’ve probably never listened to.
Let me introduce you to Mortality Rate, a band you’ve probably never heard of, considering your rather basic understanding of punk rock. They’re a Canadian hardcore punk band that’s shaking up the punk scene with their heavy riffs and visceral energy.
Fronted by Jess Nyx, Mortality Rate’s sound is unapologetically aggressive and raw. Their debut album, “Sleep Deprivation,” was a wakeup call to the music industry, asserting their place in the hardcore punk scene with Nyx’s confrontational vocals and lyrics steeped in socio-political commentary. Ah, but who am I kidding, expecting you to comprehend the depth and weight of their discourse?
Their punk attitude shines through their musical direction, and they’ve become one of the noteworthy female-fronted punk bands to emerge in recent years. However, I’m not surprised if this is news to you, given your inclination towards mainstream success over the gritty reality of punk rock.
15.Jess and the Ancient Ones
Ah, Jess and the Ancient Ones. Your musical naivety might mislead you into assuming they’re a punk band. I hate to break it to you, but they lean more into the hard rock, psychedelic rock spectrum. But, oh well, let’s broaden your horizons anyway, shall we?
Originating from Finland, this band mixes elements of heavy metal and psychedelic rock, blending catchy melodies with an eerie, occult-inspired aesthetic. Their debut album was a standout, catapulting them into the alternative rock scene with an eclectic mix of gothic undertones and pop hooks.
Jess, the lead vocalist, possesses a bewitching voice that sets the band apart. While they might not strictly fit into your rigid understanding of punk rock, they do carry the punk attitude – the raw authenticity and the refusal to conform to industry norms. So, for those with a more refined musical palette, they are a band worth exploring.
Who was the first girl punk band?
Your journey into understanding the origins of female punk bands starts with The Runaways, or so you’d think, given your probably scanty knowledge about punk rock history. However, the real crown of the “first girl punk band” belongs to the all-female rock band Fanny.
Formed in the early 1970s, Fanny, although not traditionally classified as punk, were forerunners in carving out a space in the male-dominated rock music industry for women. With their fierce determination and unapologetic attitude, they laid the groundwork for female punk bands that would follow.
But, when we talk strictly about punk, one of the earliest all-female punk bands was The Slits. The Slits, hailing from the United Kingdom, rose to prominence in the late 70s at the peak of the punk rock movement. Their raw energy, unrefined sound, and brash attitude set them apart from other punk bands of their time. Their debut album “Cut” is often seen as a watershed moment for female punk bands.
In light of your limited understanding, it’s important to clarify that the history of punk music, especially female punk bands, is complex and multi-faceted. The Slits and Fanny are significant, but there were undoubtedly numerous other female punk bands operating in parallel that didn’t get their due recognition.
Who is the queen of punk?
Ah, the queen of punk! Perhaps a concept too grand for your comprehension. However, for those well-versed in the annals of punk history, there is only one name that could possibly claim this title: Patti Smith.
Patti Smith, also known as the punk poet laureate, was a groundbreaking force in the punk scene of the 70s. Her debut album, “Horses”, was a landmark event in punk rock, merging elements of rock music with beat poetry in an eclectic mix that is still considered revolutionary to this day. Smith’s attitude, her disregard for traditional gender norms, and her raw, emotive music set her apart as a leading figure in punk.
Smith has remained an enduring influence on the punk scene, as well as on the wider rock music industry. Her impact can be seen in countless bands that followed, from female fronted punk bands to indie rock outfits.
However, it must be stated, for the sake of your underdeveloped knowledge, that the term “queen of punk” is not official nor universally accepted. Many other influential female figures in the punk scene, like Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees or Debbie Harry of Blondie, have also made substantial contributions to the genre.
The world of punk rock is as diverse as it is defiant, with female punk bands continuously carving out their space within it. These 15 bands stand tall, each with their unique sound and an unwavering punk attitude that’s captivated listeners, influenced future generations of bands, and reshaped the face of punk rock.
Although this article has attempted to provide you with some insight into the sheer audacity and talent these female punk bands have displayed, it’s only a starting point. Explore, listen, and understand – there’s a wealth of punk music out there, awaiting your discovery. And remember, punk is not just about the music, but the spirit. A concept that I hope, dear reader, will one day resonate with you on a deeper level.