[PNKSLM; 2020]

“Society and the media often act as if a woman’s entire existence and self-image depend on how fuckable they are, according to a very narrow standard.” That’s the opening line of Arre! Arre!‘s description of their new EP, Heavy Breathing, and it’s a state of affairs the Malmö-based band are understandably not happy about. “We’ve had enough of it,” they continue, and on their new EP they seek to tear through all the preconceptions, break apart the “traditional” female model society has built up, and take out a glass ceiling or two while they’re at it. Heavy Breathing is a fifteen minute, five-track declaration of proud sexuality that makes no apology to a world that has only brought restrictions, shame, and false ideals. “I’m a ravenous girl” they declare at one point, and it’s as much an affirmation as it is a warning.

Tearing down oppressive bullshit and blasting through the gloom of the current political landscape is no new feat for the band. Since their inception and even before their acclaimed debut A.T.T.A.C.K (which earned a Swedish P3 Guld Award nomination), they have always made it their mission statement “to make no-nonsense punk with a political bent.” Their debut (along with the gutsy, more sardonic 2019 follow up Tell Me All About Them) is rich with scathing takes on the world around them, with singers Anna Palmer and Katja Nielsen (the band’s founding members who also play guitar and bass respectively) calling out toxic masculinity and proclaiming their love of inspiring feminist and transgender figures. If those records before were statements of cynicism at their core, then Heavy Breathing is a joyful proclamation (despite it rallying against destructive pillars of society).

The EP begins with an anecdote – and a pretty funny one at that. “Sit On My Face” describes an instance of cunnilingus that almost ends up fatal. “He said, ‘I almost died but what a way to go’,” and there’s a definite smirk in the delivery, like both parties knew in the moment they would be telling the story for years to come. The humour is also there in the punchy garage of “Last Night” (which ultimately ends in disappointment) and “Make It Rain (SFP2)”, the latter of which reads like an ode to a person who has the lure to keep you in bed all day, but is instead a Hammer Horror-tinged anthem for self pleasure. The four-piece tell stories of sex and masturbation with real life details and inflections; there’s laughter, disappointment, consent, and blissful eruptions of noise to get lost in.

When everything stirs together and is injected with a jolt of electricity, Arre! Arre! are making some of their best work here. “Ravenous Girl” becomes fuzzier and more carnivorous across its three minutes, guitars devouring everything as chants proclaiming “I’m a ravenous girl” get lost in the swirl of increasingly heavy noise. Each declaration feeds into this image of a vampire on a hunt instead of merely being a remark on increasing horniness.

The EP highlight, however, is the final track “Me and My Fat Ass Friends”, which is a call to arms for the band as well as one for all women in the world. “We got your back,” they promise, and as the song soars into its final chorus, the band shout their name as a rallying chant (something they’ve done on previous releases but is no less invigorating here). As the danceable synth-draped bass pulses back and forth during the chorus, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the song’s vibrant energy. Needless to say it’ll make a killing on the live circuit when venues can once again fill up with patrons.

“Me and My Fat Ass Friends” and “Ravenous Girl” have plenty of replay value in them, but the punchlines of aforementioned “Sit on My Face” wear thin after a few listens. (Thankfully the inventive, itchy drumwork from Henrietta Edlund is worth visiting the track for in itself.) Similarly “Last Night”‘s brief lyrical tale loses its impact all too quickly, but the direct kick-to-the-head efficiency of the guitars and drums means it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for “Make It Rain”, which goes to lounge about, but could have been made that bit tighter to demand repeated listens. 

I realise though that, as a man, Heavy Breathing isn’t primarily a record for me. Its significance, its celebration, and its defiance I can appreciate, but won’t ever fully understand. As a short document on the power of sexual liberation, of brushing off centuries of oppressive behaviour, and making no excuse for one’s body, sexuality, or lifestyle, it’s undoubtedly another important reference point in a long and continually evolving history of women’s liberation, much like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s recent hit single “WAP” (as well the numerous other sex positive songs from decades gone by the likes of Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim. and Liz Phair). Arre! Arre! are members of a long-fought revolution, and Heavy Breathing has it sounding invigorating. They’ve had enough, and the world is going to know it.

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