The Baltimore punk band's activist roar is amplified by guest vocals from Kathleen Hanna and Joanna Angel.
A week before the 2016 election, War on Women frontwoman Shawna Potter was asked by Noisey what the band’s plans were if Donald Trump was defeated. It seemed like a good question at the time. The ardently feminist punk band had been relentlessly vocal against the Republican candidate during the campaign, and all analytical projections had him losing the election. "We want to take a little break, see about writing a new record,” Potter answered, “let our brains recharge.”
Of course, the election didn’t swing that way, and War on Women didn’t get that break they needed. No one did. Instead of taking a moment to recharge their brains, War on Women laced up their boots and went into battle, taking their message across the country by plunging into the Warped Tour where they ruffled a few feathers. They made that new record Potter alluded to, though. In an alternate reality where Hillary Clinton is President and no one has ever heard of Anthony Scaramucci (although that was a wild ten days), would War on Women have written an album fueled by an immediate sense of urgency? Who’s to say? But here and now, in this fever-dream timeline we’re stuck in, urgency’s all they’ve got.
War on Women's change-at-any-cost attitude is at their most dire on their second LP, Capture the Flag, produced by Jawbox’s J Robbins. The album’s activist roar is amplified by cameos from riot grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna ("YDTMHTL,” which stands for "you don't tell me how to live") and adult film mogul Joanna Angel (“Capture The Flag,” “Childbirth,” “Predator In Chief,” “Violence Of Bureaucracy”).
Capture the Flag’s opener “Lone Wolves” takes on the mental health issues behind gun violence, and how they're used as a shield to protect America’s ever-throbbing hard-on for gun culture. "They don’t care if you live, they don’t care if you die, it’s only ever been about control," Potter growls. It’s a song that feels especially relevant given that, oh… [gestures vaguely towards the rampant mass shooting epidemic]. In fact, on the day of the single’s release, there was a shooting at a high school in the band's home state of Maryland.
Later, “Divisive Shit” derides online slacktivism (“Enjoy your little chair. Rest your arms right there. Be sure to let us know how we’re doing out here.”) and the title track reads like a call to arms (“If we don’t love, if we don’t sing, then we have given up everything”). Capture the Flag sneers and thrashes for 37 minutes, right down to its closer, “The Chalice and the Blade,” in which the band takes a prehistorical approach to societal gender roles, with allusions to androcracy’s barbaric usurping over gylany.
With Capture the Flag, War on Women has taken every appalling headline, every new low in the name of patriotism, and every systemic problem (both fashionable and latent) over the last two years and balled them into a fist. So... who’s gonna get punched?
Listen to Capture the Flag in its entirety below, and then go out and do something. The album is out on April 13 via Bridge Nine Records. War on Women is on tour at the dates below.
April 13 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus
April 14 Lancaster, PA @ Launch Music Conference & Festival
April 15 Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
April 20 Asbury Park, NJ @ Asbury Park Brewery
April 21 Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar *Record Release Show*
May 16 Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Roboto Project
May 17 Toronto, ON @ Hard Luck Bar
May 18 Montreal, QC @ Pouzza Fest
May 19 Ithaca, NY @ The Haunt
July 1 Boston, MA @ Royale