Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An Elegy to Sleater-Kinney

By the time I got around to listening to Sleater-Kinney, it was already too late. They broke up just a few months ago, but not before releasing an album that has been called their masterpiece: The Woods (SubPop, 2005). That album's great, but the disc that really kicked my ass in their second release, Call the Doctor (Chainsaw, 1996). It opens with the title track, a rock 'n' roll song, epic in its simplicity. Coming from the Riot Grrrl movement, reductively the female counterpart of grunge, (posthumously mostly because of the tragic love affair of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love), but musically S-K sound punk, hard punk, political punk. "They got a DC sound, shudder to think Fugazi." Listen to the first few songs of this album, then listen to the beginning of Cursive's Domestica (Saddle-Creek, 2000). Okay, good. Now hear, Sleater-Kinney was writing better hard emo than my favorite emo bands, at least four years before. Sleater-Kinney doesn't rock because its comprised of three girls, S-K rocks because they are fuckin' brillant.

Case in point: "Good Things", the sixth song on the album. Lyrics include "We can't be friends, we can't be enemies...The hardest part is things already said/ Getting better words I cannot tell/ Why do good things never want to stay?/ Some things you lose some things you give away." Imagine these lyrics bellowed over a curdling baseline and crunchy guitars. Yeah, its amazing. And the next song is ever better. And they stayed together for 10 years after.

I haven't digested The Woods yet, but so far I can say: think Sunny Day Real Estate with balls. The guitar work is out of this world,surreal. The soundscape is haunted by guttural, inhuman screams and booming drums. It rocks, girl style.

So I missed my moment, I should have payed attention before the broke up, but tardies like me rejoice! Janet Weiss, S-K's drummer, recently joined Stephen Malkamus's band the Jicks. Carrie Brownstein is writing for McSweeney's Believer and Corin Tucker has started releasing solo-stuff. Better late than never, but I'm telling you. One day more is too many days to not listen to Sleater-Kinney.

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