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Music / Babes in Toyland

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Babes In Toyland were an American punk rock band. Formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1987, the band consisted of main vocalist and guitarist Kat Bjelland, drummer Lori Barbero, and bassist Michelle Leon (who would be replaced by Maureen Herman in 1992).

The band were huge influences on other musicians at the time, with Kat Bjelland's kinderwhore fashion becoming popular among female grunge bands and with some riot grrrl bands citing them as inspirations.Babes in Toyland released three studio albums: Spanking Machine (1990), followed by the commercially successful Fontanelle (1992), and the less successful Nemesisters (1995), before becoming inactive in 1997 and eventually disbanding in 2001. They reunited in 2014 and completed an international tour in 2015, before disbanding again in 2020.


  • Spanking Machine (1990)
  • Fontanelle (1992)
  • Nemesisters (1995)

Definitely not to be mistaken for the 1903 operetta also called "Babes In Toyland" or any of the films based on the operetta.

Tropes In Toyland:

  • Bowdlerise: In the music video for "Bruise Violet", the word "bitch" is replaced with "witch."
  • Careful with That Axe: Most of their work.
  • Cover Version: On Nemesisters, they covered "We Are Family", originally by Sister Sledge, and "All By Myself", originally by Eric Carmen (but covered by many artists).
  • Creepy Doll: The covers of Fontanelle and Painkillers are both pictures of unnerving dolls.
  • Double Entendre: "Sweet '69".
    Sweet, sweet ride
  • Fandom Rivalry: There's one with fans of Hole because Hole is viewed by some fans as a copy of Babes In Toyland (it doesn't help that Hole managed to achieve more mainstream success than Babes In Toyland. Nor does it help that Hole's lead singer is very controversial for unrelated reasons). The animosity is quite one-sided though, as Hole fans generally like Babes In Toyland.
    • That having been said, Hole and Babes In Toyland fans can also be considered Friendly Fandoms, as a lot of people enjoy both bands due to their similar themes and aesthetics.
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  • The Fashionista: Lead singer Kat Bjelland started a whole new fashion trend, known as kinderwhore, which involved wearing red lipstick (often smeared), heavy mascara, babydoll dresses, hair barrettes, ripped tights, Peter Pan collars, and Mary Jane shoes or biker boots, the goal of which was to subvert femininity by appearing delicate and doll-like, contrasting her aggressive performances and graphic lyrics, which were as far from delicate and soft as you could imagine.
  • Fashion Dissonance: Kat Bjelland famously wore babydoll dresses, Mary Jane shoes, and ribbons in her hair while screaming at the top of her lungs and shredding her guitar.
  • Follow the Leader: Some view Hole as Courtney Love's attempt to become famous with her own copy of Babes In Toyland, having seen the success her friend Kat had gained. This is partially because of some similar lyrics, partially because Hole started off as a punk band like Babes In Toyland despite the fact that prior to founding Hole, Courtney Love had once said to Kat, "You'll never get anywhere playing that punk noise!", and partially because Courtney Love was perceived as stealing the kinderwhore style Kat is considered the creator of. Although Courtney says her style was actually inspired by Chrissy Amphlett of Divinyls.
  • Grunge: While more punk than grunge, they did overlap a lot with the grunge scene, being close friends with members of Nirvana and Hole.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: While 'Bluebell', being about attempted rape, was naturally already a dark song, it feels even more harrowing knowing that bassist Maureen Herman was raped a few years after the band split.
  • Lighter and Softer: Nemesisters isn't as harsh as their previous albums.
  • Live Album: Minneapolism
  • Metal Scream: Many of them throughout their songs.
  • Miniscule Rocking: The aptly named "Short Song" is 41 seconds long. "Pearl" and the famous "Handsome and Gretel" are both under 2 minutes long.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Usually about 8-9, but "Quiet Room" scores a 1-2, and "Sweet 69" is a 4.
  • Monster Clown: The cover of the Painkillers EP is a photograph of a baby doll with a clown's head.
  • One-Word Title: The albums Fontanelle and Nemesisters, as well as the songs "Blood", "Spun", "Pearl", "Mother", "Gone", "Istigkeit", "Laredo", "Ragweed", "Ariel", "Memory", "22", "Surd", "Hello" and "Bluebell".
  • Pun-Based Title: Nemesisters
  • Punk Rock
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: "Bluebell" delivers this message:
    You're dead meat, motherfucker
    You don't try to rape a goddess!
  • Retraux: The music video for "Sweet '69", which sees the members dressed up as a 60s girl group.
  • Riot Grrrl: While they rejected the riot girl label, they were a huge influence on the genre, with bands like Bikini Kill and Jack Off Jill citing them as inspirations.
    Kathleen Hanna: "We had just experienced such an amazing, life-changing thing. That show! Kat Bjelland played guitar better than Greg Sage from The Wipers. She was wearing a tiny dress with a huge bow in her hair and she looked so beautiful and so fucked up; she was doing the craziest shit with her voice. Lori Barbero hit the drums harder than anyone I had ever seen and Michelle Leon was just sexy as hell and could totally play the bass. I was like, wow! You can really have it all. You can make this amazing music which was about how beautiful anger can be to me. I'd never heard anything like it before and haven't heard anything since like it.
  • Rock Trio: The group had three members.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Handsome and Gretel" is a shout-out to the fairytale.
    • "Ariel" is likely a reference to the poetry collection of the same name by Sylvia Plath.
  • Signature Song: "Handsome and Gretel", "He's My Thing", "Bruise Violet" and "Sweet '69."
  • The Something Song: "Short Song" from Fontanelle.
  • Song Style Shift: "Jungle Train" starts off slow, before abruptly getting faster and then returning to its original tempo.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Kat Bjelland doesn't sing on "Magick Flute", which is instead sung by drummer Lori Barbero.
  • Surreal Music Video: The music video for "Won't Tell" definitely counts.
  • Take That!: "Bruise Violet" is widely believed to be one aimed at Courtney Love, who had been accused of copying Kat's style. The music video features Cindy Sherman, dressed identically to Kat Bjelland stalking Kat, while Kat sings lyrics such as "You fucking bitch! Well, I hope your insides rot!" and calls her a "liar" throughout the song.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Kat Bjelland and Courtney Love were this during their younger years.


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