15 of the most underrated all-female bands

8 March 2024, 14:26 | Updated: 8 March 2024, 14:28

Underrated all-female bands: Voodoo Queens, The Donnas, Fuzzbox and Shonen Knife.
Underrated all-female bands: Voodoo Queens, The Donnas, Fuzzbox and Shonen Knife. Picture: Martyn Goodacre/Nigel Crane/Redferns/Tim Roney/Niels van Iperen/Getty Images

Radio X looks at some of the all-female bands that should have been much, much bigger.

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  1. The 5,6,7,8's

    The - Woo Hoo

    Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, this group of garage rock revivalists came to the attention of Western audiences when they appeared in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Volume 1. Their cover of The Rock-A-Teens's Woo-Hoo was featured on the soundtrack and later picked up for use in a TV ad for Carling lager, propelling the single to Number 28 in the summer of 2004. The follow-up, I'm Blue, failed to replicate the success, but the 5,6,7,8's have continued doing their own thing, with a single of You May Dream/Batman Theme, being issued in November 2023.

  2. The Donnas

    The Donnas - Take It Off (Official Video)

    A no-nonsene pop-punk band from Palo Alto, California, The Donnas were barely out of high school when they signed to Atlantic Records, who sent them off to play everywhere from Lollapalooza to Reading and Leeds Festivals. With their tunes appearing in films and game soundtracks and their single Take It Off breaking the UK Top 40, it was only after drummer Torry Castellano had to leave the band due to shoulder problems and a parting of the ways with Atlantic that stopped The Donnas. A planned eighth album never emerged, leaving 2007's Bitchin' as their last outing.

  3. Shonen Knife

    SHONEN KNIFE * Riding On The Rocket * OFFICIAL VIDEO

    Sisters Naoko and Atsuko Yamano formed Shonen Knife in 1981, forging a path as probably the only all-female punk band in Japan at the time. They came to the attention of US labels K Records and Sub Pop, and soon found themselves as cult figures within the grunge scene, opening for Nirvana at their European shows on the Nevermind tour. Kurt Cobain named 1983's Burning Farm as one of his favourite albums, but this celebrity endorsement didn't faze the group; they issued Our Best Place in February 2023 and the band have been touring Australia and New Zealand in the opening months of 2024.

  4. Fanny

    Fanny - Hey Bulldog (1971) | LIVE

    You may snicker at the name, but it has a different meaning in America, of course. In fact, the moniker was supposed to represent "female sprit". Based around sisters June and Jean Millington with drummer Alice de Buhr and keyboard player Nickey Barclay, Fanny released five albums between 1970 and 1974, reuniting briefly in 2018 for an album called Fanny Walked The Earth. Their biggest hit was Butter Boy, from the album Rock 'N' Roll Survivors, which made No 29 in the early months of 1975, but the band could also handle a fantastic cover version, with their take on The Beatles' Hey Bulldog proving to be a monster.

  5. The Belle Stars

    The Belle Stars - Sign Of The Times (1983)

    The roots of The Belle Stars are in the all-female ska band The Bodysnatchers, which featured Rhoda Dakar on vocals. When that outfit ended in 1981 without issuing a single album, members Stella Barker, Sarah-Jane Owen, Miranda Joyce, Penny Lauton and Judy Parsons enlisted bassist Lesley Shone and lead vocalist Jennie Matthias to form The Belle Stars. Signed to Stiff Records, they broke the Top 40 with their cover of Iko Iko, but had their biggest hit with Sign Of The Times (nothing to do with Prince), which made Number 3 in the early weekes of 1983. The band didn't replicate the success and by 1986 were working with producers Trevor Horn and Jill Sinclair, but the only fruits were a flop single, World Domination. To everyone's surprise, in 1989 Iko Iko made the Top 20 in America after it was included on the soundtrack to the movie Rain Man.

  6. Babes In Toyland

    Babes In Toyland - Bruise Violet (Video)

    The pioneering trio of guitarist Kat Bjelland, drummer Lori Barbero and bassist Michelle Leon (who was later replaced by Maureen Herman), formed in 1987, just as grunge was taking off. Their debu album Spaking Machine brough them to the attention of Sonic Youth, who invited the trio to join the Goo tour in 1990. Signing to major Reprise, their first effort for the label Fontanelle was their biggest commercial success and the band appeared on the 1993 Lollapalooza tour. A proposed follow-up to 1995's Nemesisters never appeared, but after a couple of short lived reunions in the 21st Century, it seems like the group finalled called it a day in 2017.

  7. Girlschool

    Girlschool - C'mon Lets Go (Official Music Video)

    Starting life in Wandsworth as the school band Painted Lady, Girlschool named themselves after Paul McCartney song and came to the attention of Motorhead man Lemmy, who was so impressed, he invited the band to support the metal legends on their Overkill tour. The band's second album Hit And Run made the Top 5 at the height of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, while their collaboration with Motorhead, the St Valentine's Day Massacre EP, saw the band on Top Of The Pops with a cover of a cover of Johnny Kidd And The Pirates' Please Don't Touch. Despite line-up changes, the fourteenth Girlschool album, WTFortyfive?, was released in 2023.

  8. Le Tigre


    Former in 1998, was a ground-breaking electroclash "post Riot Grrl" trio featuring Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman, and JD Samson mixed politically-charged lyrics with irresistible beats. Their most popular hit, Deceptacon enjoyed a remix by James Murphy's DFA label, but after the 2004 albu This Island, the group went on a "long hiatus" - but went on tour for the first time in 18 years in 2023.

  9. Lunachicks

    Lunachicks - "Don't Want You" Go-kart Records

    This New York quartet were another late 80s punk band that received acclaim from Sonic Youth and issued their first album Babysitters On Acid on the British label Blast First. Their fourth album, 1997's Pretty Ugly, spawned their most famous song, Don't Want You, but after 1999's Luxury Problem, there have been no futher Lunachicks recordings, despite live appearances with the likes of No Doubt, Rancid and NOFX. In 2021, the group played their first shows in 17 years at Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas.

  10. L7

    L7 - Pretend We're Dead

    People of a certain age recall L7 courting controversy by dropping their trousers on an episode of The Word while performing their hit Pretend We're Dead, but this Los Angeles group had three more Top 40 hits in the UK: Everglade, Monster and Andres. By the time of their fifth album, The Beauty Process: Triple Platinum, in 1997, bassist Jennifer Finch had left and the band went on hiatus four years later. They reunited in 2014 and played a 30th anniversary tour for the album Bricks Are Havy in 2022.

  11. Luscious Jackson

    Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye

    Formed in 1991, this dynamic all-female alternative rock band from New York City fused elements of hip-hop, funk, and indie rock. Featuring former Beastie Boys band member Kate Schellenbach, the first Luscious Jackson album, Natural Ingredients, appeared on the Beasties' Grand Royal label and saw the group take part in the Lollapalooza tour. Their biggest hit in the UK was the single Naked Eye, taken from the 1996 album Fever In Fever Out. They went on hiatus in 2000, but returned a decade later, issuing two albums in 2013 - Magic Hour and Baby DJ. Since then, there's been no futher new material and it was announced in April 2023 that keyboard player Vivian Trimble had died, aged 59.

  12. The Raincoats

    THE RAINCOATS Fairytale in the Supermarket

    The Raincoats were a British post-punk band formed by Ana da Silva and Gina Birch in 1977, who became known for their experimental sound and feminist ethos. Their self-titled debut album influenced the burgeoning alternative music scene with its unconventional instrumentation and raw emotion. After their third album, Moving, in 1984, the band split to pursue other projects. After da Silva was visited by Kurt Cobain who raved about the band's music, the time was right for a Raincoats reunion and the band released their first album in 12 years, Looking In The Shadows, in May 1996. The group have since played sproadic live dates, including the Matt Groening-curated All Tomorrow's Parties in 2010 and a performance of their debut album in full at London's Scala the same year.

  13. Voodoo Queens

    Voodoo Queens - Kenuwee Head HD

    An early London "Riot Grrrl" band, formed around sisters Anjali and Rajni Bhatia, their cousin Anjula Bhasker and Anjali's former colleague in the band Mambo Taxi, Ella Guru. Together with drummer Steffi Lucchesini the Voodoo Queens topped the Indie Chart in 1993 with Kenuwee Head, issued on the Too Pure lable, then home to PJ Harvey. Their sole album was 1994's Chocolate Revenge, but their collection of John Peel Sessions gives some idea of the band's enegry and attitude in that pre-Britpop period.

  14. We've Got A Fuzzbox And We're Gonna Use It

    Fuzzbox - International Rescue (Official Music Video)

    This Brummie quartet began life aligned with the short-lived "grebo" wave, with brightly-coloured punk haircuts and lo-fi riffs, as featured on their 1986 debut album Bostin' Steve Austin. In 1989, they had a major label makeover as a slick pop act, which may have lost them some original fans but earned them Top 20 hits with International Rescue and Pink Sunshine. Work on a follow-up stalled due to the inevitable "musical differences", and singer Vicky Perks forged a solo career. There were reunions in 2010 and 2015, the latter without guitarist Jo Dunne, who died in 2012.

  15. Fluffy

    Fluffy - 'Hypersonic' promo video - 1995

    Formed by schoolfriends Amanda Rootes and Angie Adams, Fluffy were inspired by female grunge artists like Courtney Love, and signed to Hut Records (home of The Verve and Smashing Pumpkins). The quartet toured with Foo Fighters and opened for the Sex Pistols in Japan, issuing their only album Black Eye in September 1996, which spawned the singles Hypersonic and Husband. They split shortly afterwards when Rootes and bassist Helen Storer relocated to the US.