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Hanin Elias | In Flames (DHR)
I can't help but suspect that the title of this record is a purposeful reference to Lizzie Borden's activist film of the same name. The feminist sentiments of Borden's work and Elias' DHR imprint (DHR Fatal) / debut solo longplayer jive on numerous levels, so much so that it would seem more of a reach to try denying any connection between the two. Similarly, despite thirty years' worth of liberation and attention to gender inequality, it seems unfortunately necessary for Elias' tone to be as or more aggressive than that of Borden's seminal (sorry) filmic diatribe. Both share an over-the-top campiness that in no way undercuts the seriousness of the subject matter, nor the ferocity of the message, and both aim to be taken seriously while maintaining a serious degree of 'coolness.' Where the two part ways is in the degree of anger used to fuel the delivery of the message. Borden, even this early in her career (late 70s, I think), carried a sophistication that is clearly visible in the work. She understood that anger and outrage could only get her message so far, and thus inculcated her more outlandish and violent scenarios with less angst-ridden characters and material. Contrary to this, Elias is still in full 'flame-on' mode, pushing the drill n' bass aggro assault of her Atari Teenage Riot days into similar overdrive here; creating a wall of sound Phil Spector (there's that name again) would find hard to fault. This isn't to say that Hanan fails to make good use of these elements. Half of In Flames is chock full of tasty synth melodies and gritty, rage-driven overtures that please these ears when in the mood for aural assault (the re-mixes by Kathleen Hanna, Nic Endo and Christoph De Babalon I find less interesting). Yet, a cut such as You Will Never Get Me, which relents, at least musically ?? with its logy ambience and unfurling string samples - maps Elias' best possible future. Rage is, after all, impossible to maintain. It works like a drug, sending its owner searching for ever-intensifying expressions of anger until ultimately finding the purest form of rage extant: self-destruction. And we want, make that need, more artists like Elias to get the message heard.

G.C. Weeks
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001