Pussy Riot: Matriarchy Now review – a gleeful up yours to orthodoxy

If you haven’t listened to Pussy Riot since 2012, when their Punk Prayer earned three members of the Russian feminist punk art collective two years in a penal colony, brace yourself.

Matriarchy Now cover art.
Matriarchy Now cover art. Photograph: Ksti Hu

Though they’ve long since abandoned Oi!-by-way-of-Bikini Kill thrash-n-yell, this debut mixtape, executive produced by Tove Lo and stuffed with guests from iLoveMakonnen to Big Freedia, is a different world: kitsch, hypersexual political pop in which irony and ideology grind awkwardly. When it works, it’s bizarrely, hilariously brilliant: Sugarmommy, featuring Mazie, conjures Grimes fomenting revolution with Aqua, while Hatefuck, with Slayyyter, is Atari Teenage Riot throwing a strop in the candyfloss queue, unsettled by the childlike vocals of Nadya Tolokonnikova – the only Pussy Rioter in this incarnation (Maria Alyokhina, the other global representative of the loose, open group, has recently toured a musical called Riot Days). When it doesn’t work, it’s horrible: the Phoebe Ryan collaboration Horny should, like all songs of that title, be fired past the Oort cloud.

The shift from the topical to the interpersonal leaves the lyrics more limited; pop’s aisles are already plentifully stocked with sexual power politics, and no one needed two boilerplate additions to the surplus mountains of songs about self-rescuing heroines (Princess Charming) and sex-doll-fembots (Plastic).

Yet Matriarchy Now is rebel music in the context of Pussy Riot’s origins – a deliberate “sellout” of punk purity, and an up yours to conservative Russian society and the patriarchs of the Orthodox church – that shows Tolokonnikova’s artistic ambitions clearly extend beyond her undoubted heroism. After years of being asked about Putin, whatever music she puts out, the confusion, glee and revulsion these seven songs evoke should start a new conversation.

The Guardian

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