The punk rock band is known as Babes in Toyland originally hail from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lead vocalist and founder, Kat Bjelland, came to Minnesota from her original roots of Woodburn, Oregon, in hopes to create her own rock band. When she met Lori Barbero at a mutual friend’s barbeque, the ladies teamed up to start Babes in Toyland in 1987, along with bassist, Michelle Leon. After the trio recorded and released their first debut studio album, Spanking Machine, in 1990, Leon moved on and was replaced by a new bassist, Maureen Herman, in 1992. Also in 1992, the all-ladies group released their second album, Fontanelle. The third and final studio album the ladies recorded, Nemesisters, was released in 1995, but after becoming inactive as of 1997, the band broke up in 2001.
After taking a thirteen-year break from each other as a group, Babes in Toyland reunited in 2014 but never released any new material on any new studio albums. Instead, they performed in world tours until breaking up for the second time in 2020. Overall, the discography of the band not only features the three studio albums, but two extended plays (EPs), a live album, and five compilation albums. From the entire roster of Babes in Toyland catalog, the second album entitled Fontanelle was the most commercially successful as it sold 220,000 copies in the US.
Top 10 Babes in Toyland Songs
#10 – Pain in My Heart
From the band’s debut studio album, Spanking Machine, “Pain in My Heart” was among many songs from the discography of Babes in Toyland that received mostly positive reviews by the music critics in 1991. The guitar riff starting the song out is a smooth, yet heavy-hitting intro that paved the way for a slightly softer vocal performance by Kim Bjelland. The popularity of underground music as fans know it has the earliest examples of its roots stemmed from a trio of pioneers that cracked open a new door of alternative music possibilities the rock genre hadn’t experienced before.
#9 – Mother
The start of “Mother” features a fast-tracked train-style entry, which is then lulled in by Kim Bjalland’s vocals before breaking out into the grungy, alternative punk style of music Babes in Toyland would become best known for. This song was one of the highlights for the 1991 album, Fontanelle, which was the most successful album to the band’s credit.
#8 – Quiet Room (Instrumental)
The twangy guitar of “Quiet Room,” was the final track to appear on the 1991 EP, To Mother. Despite no vocals, the display of the melodic playout of the instrumentation involved is simple but not boring as it seemed to tell a story on its own without the need for any lyrical involvement.
#7 – Dust Cake Boy
“Dust Cake Boy” was the first single released by Babes in Toyland in 1989, which is on their debut album, Spanking Machine. The fast guitar opening, followed by the screech of vocals seemed to put the world on notice there are three young ladies who are out to rock the world with their alternative punk, mixed with grunge, style.
#6 – Handsome + Gretel
“Handsome + Gretel was first released on a seven-inch vinyl before appearing on Babes in Toyland’s second studio album, Fontanelle in 1992. The heavy guitar riff opening, followed by a quick drum beat, launches into the powerful, cantankerous performance by Kat Bjelland. According to drummer Lori Barbero in an interview, an inspired Bjelland wrote the 1988 song after a freak car accident in what felt like supernatural timing took place in 1988.
#5 – He’s My Thing
The trademark psychobabble that came from Kat Bjelland in “He’s My Thing” is featured on the 1993 EP, Painkillers. That, plus the heavy-hitting riffs coming from the bass and guitar, is one of the most aggressive songs recorded by Babes in Toyland. It is also among their best. Painkillers appeared on the UK Albums Chart at number fifty-three.
#4 – Bruise Violet
“Bruise Violet” was recorded and released through the 1992 album, Fontanelle, which music critics seemed to be in agreement with what was the best album Babes in Toyland ever produced. Kat Bjelland’s off-beat, cheeky style focused heavily on musings that seemed to target her personal nemesis. The sonic clarity of the group’s performance into this song, plus the rest of the album, showed signs of maturity as the ladies seemed to stray away from the punk genre and closer to alternative rock.
#3 – Catatonic
“Catatonic” is the leading track from the EP, “To Mother,” which was released on July 1, 1991. The chanting mixed with lyrics from Kat Bjelland and her bandmates played out the popular 1990s grunge music style at its best. The instrumental performance was hard-hitting, yet fluidic, which added to the appeal of the song and its slightly under three-minute run.
#2 – We Are Family
“We Are Family” peaked at number twenty-two on the US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play in 1995 for Babes in Toyland. The band’s coverage of Sister Sledge’s original 1979 hit, was enough to get them recognized in the dance club scene for their alternative punk approach to one of the most recognized hits that originally came from the disco scene. “We Are Family,” was the second song from the album, Nemesisters, that would appear on the music charts. Overall, it was the final hit Babes in Toyland produced as recording artists before going inactive and disbanding in 2001. When they reunited in 2014, they focused on tours, not new recordings.
#1 – Sweet 69
On the US Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks, “Sweet 69” charted at number thirty-seven, which became Babes in Toyland’s best-recognized hit with the American punk music scene. The band’s usage of the cowbells, along with the heavy punk riffs played out by the bass and guitar, proved to be one of the strongest performances the trio of ladies ever recorded. Coming from the band’s album, Nemesisters, it was the first of two songs from the record that would realize chart success.
Top 10 Top 10 Babes In Toyland Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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