What does it take for one to turn their back on the girlboss anthems that made them famous in the first place? Ashnikko’s debut album ‘WEEDKILLER’ has a pretty compelling answer. “I listen to some of ‘Daredevil’ and I cringe pretty hard,” Ashnikko (real name Ashton Casey) said in a recent Guardian profile. “I was writing music people wanted to hear and now I write music that I want to hear.”
The North Carolinian could have made a killing shilling vague platitudes over punky trap instrumentals, as she did on her previous mixtape, 2021’s ‘Daredevil’. But within ‘WEEDKILLER’ lies an artistically sophisticated and powerfully moving argument for feminism.
The album starts with a bang, as Ashnikko sets out all the forces she’s fighting against. As she recently explained, the metaphorical weedkiller represents everything from her “rapist” to her childhood “heartbreak”, and Ashnikko is a fairy desperately trying to survive the decaying world that surrounds her. ‘You Make Me Sick’ lets her take on a multitude of faces and voices to express this pain, and some classic Ashnikko jabs: “Your life is a blooper!”
It’s the solution to this rage that’s the most enthralling part of the album: love. ‘WEEDKILLER’ and its ode to queer love and joy (cheers Arlo!) inspires some of the best tracks on the album, showing a new side to Ashnikko. The bouncy, Pharrell-inspired ‘Don’t Look At It’ includes the hilarious line: “I can’t help that I want to be titty-smothered”.
Perhaps the best of these songs is ‘Miss Nectarine’, which entangles Ashnikko’s conservative upbringing with the irrepressible lust of being young and gay: “Your parents screamed and blamed on me / Sent you off and prayed my gay away that Sunday.” Combined with the sweaty club instrumental and delightful Y2K-inspired production (the whistles are especially Britney-esque), it represents sexual freedom at its best.
With the power of this love, Ashnikko ends the album on a stellar three-track run: the title track defeating the weedkiller, ‘Possession of a Weapon’, a protest against the overturn of Roe v Wade, and ‘Dying Star’. With the help of Ethel Cain, Ashnikko is ready to leave behind the planet of suffering, eager to see what comes next.
There are definitely some missteps, namely forgettable tracks like ‘Want It All’ and ‘Worms’. But the cosmic stakes of the situation at hand heightens the melodrama of Ashnikko’s life to astral heights. ‘WEEDKILLER’ expertly weaves public and personal politics into an impressively captivating narrative for a debut.
- Release date: August 25
- Record label: Parlophone