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Babes in Toyland is about as harsh as rock music gets -- guitarist Kat Bjelland screams and thrashes her guitar to the gut-pounding, throttling beat of bassist Maureen Herman and drummer Lori Barbero. Over their two albums and two EPs, the all-female trio offers no escape from their strongly female-oriented, but not necessarily feminist, rock.

Bjelland formed Babes in Toyland in 1987 in Minneapolis, after playing around San Francisco for several years in various bands which featured, at various times, Jennifer Finch of L7 and Courtney Love of Hole. After releasing a single on Sub Pop's singles club, Babes in Toyland came to the attention of Sonic Youth, who took them on a tour of Europe. Soon, they recorded their abrasive debut, Spanking Machine, with producer Jack Endino; one more independent EP followed before they signed to Reprise. Between labels, original bassist Michelle Leon left the group.

Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo produced their second album, Fontanelle, which showed no signs of concession to a major label. In early 1993, the band broke up for several days before re-forming to record the Painkillers EP and hitting the road with Lollapalooza 1993.

Even though Lollapalooza offered the group a boost in public exposure, they chose not to capitalize on it; instead, it took them nearly two years before they released a new record, Nemesisters, in 1995. With Babes in Toyland on hiatus, Bjelland formed Katastrophy Wife with husband Glen Mattson; in the spring of 2000, Reprise issued the Babes collection Lived. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi