For longtime fans of Kathleen Hanna, Hit Reset may at first seem like an odd title choice for the second proper full-length album by her group, The Julie Ruin. After all, it was the band’s 2013 record Run Fast which effectively resurrected the fifteen-year-old, pseudonymous, lo-fi, solo project as a band. However, considering the album’s pointed title track about domestic abuse, as well as lyrical references to Kickstarter, text messaging, internet threads etc., it’s clear the title works two ways: as a sarcastic, modern phrasing of the idiom forgive and forget, and as a signifier of the band’s acknowledgement of a tech savvy world.
After the aforementioned title track opens Hit Reset, the pair of songs that follow find the band stretching their legs a bit, refreshingly adapting previously untouched styles to their sound. The record’s noisy and hypnotic first single, “I Decide”, pounds through with Hanna intoning deliberately monotone lyrics around psych-tinged guitar and synthesizer solos. Not to be outdone, the song “Be Nice” finds Hanna utilizing Ono-esque vocal stylings over choppy rhythms and squealing keyboards.
Hit Reset’s finest moment is reached with “Rather Not”. Much like the song “Stay Monkey” from the 1998 self-titled Julie Ruin record, “Rather Not” is a stunning example of Hanna’s ability to craft a traditional pop song about unrequited love and deliver it with an uninhibited emotion that will touch the heart of the most jaded listener. The first half of Hit Reset is concluded with the upbeat call and response track “Planet You” and the equally peppy hand-clapper “Let Me Go”. Side two of the record opens with “Mr. So and So”, a song that takes aim at male poseurs who pretend to understand and appreciate the riot grrrl scene. Other second half highlights include: the soulful, organ-infused “Roses More Than Water”, the short, sharp, punk stomper “Record Breaker”, and the infectiously danceable “Time Is Up”.
Hit Reset ends with the piano and guitar ballad, “Calverton”. Stripped of any studio polish, Hanna sings with heartbreaking sincerity about being lonely but hopeful. Two thirds in, the song reaches an emotional bridge which ends just before she utters the song’s final lines, “without you, I might bemoan, hiding in my apartment from everyone, without you, I’d take the fifth, or be on my deathbed still full of wishes, but you made me think that I could fly.” It’s an exceptional moment on an album with more than a few exceptional moments. With regards to its boldness and maturity, Hit Reset supersedes Run Fast. Twenty-five years into her recording career, Kathleen Hanna proves that she still has a lot to express both lyrically and musically.