There was a time in the late 90’s and early 00’s where there were certain fixtures of the Canadian rock music scene. These included, but were not limited to, the likes of Matthew Good Band, Nickelback, and Sum 41. Now these are all different acts, and they have all taken very different paths since the time of Big Shiny Tunes compilations, but perhaps the most unique and unsung of these was the route that Bif Naked took, a female rock musician operating in a male-dominated genre and era, managing to establish herself with standout singles (“Spaceman”) and energetic performances.
For an Indian-born girl adopted by American ministers, who grew up in Winnipeg, to set out a place for herself in the Canadian music scene and abroad was no small feat. This is why there is so much riding on her latest single, “Hot Box Girls”. (Her last studio album, The Promise, dropped almost a decade ago (2009), and in the meantime she has focused on recovering from breast cancer, and releasing a remarkably candid memoir.)
Listen to the new single “Hot Box Girls” here.
Perhaps that is why this latest single sounds dramatically and utterly different from her previous material. Bif always maintained a playful atmosphere on albums, but not so much as what is on this track. “Bonjour,” she begins, almost purring were it not for how feisty and excited she sounds, a clear tip of the hat to Paris, one of the three places in the world she calls home. The opening strains of guitar are deep, almost djent-like, which is wildly at odds with the traditional rock guitar sounds we are used to hearing from her rhythm section. There’s no wasted time in toe-tapping, head-nodding, anthemic rock, and sure enough the chorus is a head banger by way of burlesque. It’s the kind of rock that captures the spirit of those who can appreciate both club nights and roller derbies.
While the song is certainly going to appeal to fans of more recent post-hardcore and nu-metal, it will be an odd bedfellow to the rest of her discography. However, there’s probably something to be said for the fact that she genuinely sounds like she’s having a lot of fun on her latest single. Whereas The Promise, her last album, was a labour of love borne from the turmoil she was going through, this one almost feels like a celebration of club culture: take the back and forth between her and the male voice in the beginning and end of the song, which sounds like a pseudo-homage to long-forgotten pop group Aqua. It’s certainly an interesting indication of where Bif is going musically. Time will only tell as to how this will play out, but in the meantime, you can catch Bif playing across Canada at the end of May and beginning of June.