Team Dresch - Personal Best (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Team Dresch

Personal Best (1995)

Candy Ass Records/Chainsaw Rec

By the mid-'90s, Riot Grrl was quickly losing steam as major bands such as Huggy Bear and Bratmobile had called it a day by 1995 and Bikini Kill would release their final album, Reject All American a year later. Even with the scene dissolving around them, Team Dresch released their debut, Personal Best, in 1995. While the album did not receive the same coverage and never became as popular as many of the albums released that year, it certainly had nothing to do with the quality of the songs found on the album.

While many bands in the Riot Grrl movement were overtly political, Team Dresch looked outward and inward in their lyrics. It wasn’t that there weren't moments where the band addressed political issues in an unflinching manner, the second song on the album is called “Hate the Christian Right!!!” after all; they also addressed the emotional and psychological realities of being a lesbian in mid-'90s America. And while I’m a straight cis male, even the most casual observer can see that society was far less accepting of members of the LGBT community in 1995 than they are 20 years later.

The band also set themselves apart musically, while Riot Grrl bands weren’t unmusical … it’s suffice to say that even with a different lyrical direction most of them would not have joined Nirvana, Green Day and The Offspring as Top 40 darlings. That couldn’t be said of the ladies in Team Dresch, while they were certainly too visceral lyrically and vocally for most alternative radio stations they were writing great songs. Without losing any of the energy or volume associated bands like Bikini Kill or Huggy Bear had, they used that energy to back up their songwriting abilities. And it shows, especially on songs like “Fagetarian and Dyke,” She’s Amazing” and “Fake Fight.”

The song that sticks with me the most off this great collection of songs is “Growing up in Springfield” due to the lyrical content about growing up in a close-minded town. For previously mentioned reasons, the song can’t be directly biographical for me. But, when this song talks about how “all the hick boys loved to harass me so I flaunted my hatred of the flag” definitely took me back to being a 16-year-old kid who railed against the close-minded socially conservative assholes that shared the halls of my high school with me.

The first time I heard this album was only three or four years ago, and it pulled me instantly. It mixed great songwriting skills, made the personal political and the political personal, and may have been the gasp for life the first wave of Riot Grrls needed to make it through another year. If I had to pick a modern album to compare it to, it would be Transgender Dysphoria Blue. The one fault I give this album, is they called it Personal Best, which is incorrect as they released a much stronger album the following year.