Watch Sleater-Kinney and Belcher kids rock the F@&%! out above Bob's Burgers in the kick-ass cartoon video for "A New Wave."
They came from the Pacific Northwest! They were young, and they had things to say. At first, it appeared that the weaponry, the system, the strategy, consisted of a lead singer who had an uncanny urgency to her voice, more so than anyone since Patti Smith, enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. That was the first part of the weaponry, this lead singer, and the second part consisted of a remarkable chemistry between the two guitar players, viz. Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker. One guitar seemed on occasion to finish the other's lines, and vice versa, as if they were performing the medieval form called the hocket. Initially, these were the strategies. It was urgent, it was fierce.
he second album, Call the Doctor, did things that could not be done on the first. Suddenly there were two voices, not just the amazing lead singer. There was the second voice, with its urbane, sexy drawl, fitted exactly around the first in a kind of contrapuntal exercise that was precisely calibrated to what the guitars were already doing. The noise got noisier. Where the songs had orbited around a certain feminist rage on the eponymous first album, the message got deeper as the noise got noisier, especially on "I'm Not Waiting," and "Good Things," and "Taste Test." Sleater-Kinney wasn't waiting to make the transition from promising girls to women, they were taking, and they were allowed.
They came from the Pacific Northwest, but they were beginning to sound like they weren't from a particular region, but maybe from the entire recent history of rock and roll. Dig Me Out, their first unremitting masterpiece, in which the tempos occasionally slowed, and the dynamics were more varied, all the better to allow the lead singer, Corin, to emerge from the howl somewhat, and for Carrie's more vulnerable voice to be more melodious and frontal than before. Also: a not-to-be-underestimated strategic coup. New drummer! Whereas there had never been a problem with the prior drummer, Lora McFarlane, she did seem to be chasing after the songs sometimes, instead of leading them. Not so with the amazing new drummer Janet Weiss, whose virtuosity and ability to find room for fills anywhere is as admirable and satisfying as any drummer in the punk tradition, etc. Dig Me Out was friendlier, more intimate, but it wasn't any less passionate. They may have come from the Pacific Northwest, but they weren't going to be ghetto-ized there, in the hippie-friendly blue states.
he Hot Rock and All Hands on the Bad One, the albums that followed in 1999 and 2000, consolidated the triumphs of Call the Doctor and Dig Me Out, and this is not a bad thing. The songwriting team revealed that it seemed to have an endless reservoir of those angular guitar riffs favored especially by Brownstein, guitar riffs that managed to sound both playful and funky, in the way that Pat Place's guitar used to sound in the Bush Tetras. This is satisfying, to know that a certain way of playing has innumerable variations. There also began to appear on the horizon a certain devotion to the possibility of melody, hooks, and to the instrumental coloration and variation that might be brought into what is after all a rather simple ensemble (two guitars and drums, with the occasional bass part on the recordings), a tiny bit of piano here and there, maybe an organ part, etc. Of these two middle period recordings, All Hands... with its frank erotics, its laments about anorexia, and its tour-band laments, seemed the more satisfying, evincing particular continuity in the use of John Goodmanson as producer, who worked on all the band's early albums except The Hot Rock.