Thursday, April 26, 2012

Top 50 Albums, #30 - "Dig Me Out," Sleater-Kinney

A long time ago - I first remember seeing it in his 1970s music overview in the Village Voice Pazz 'n Jop Poll, way back in 1979 - Robert Christgau wrote about the concept of "semi-popular" music.  As with many Christgau long-form pieces, the writing was dense so the meaning was a bit difficult to ascertain.  What I always took from it, my own interpretation if you will, was that "semi-popular music" was the kind of music that would be the most popular music of the day, if the rock music audience had continued to grow, along with some of the best artists, beyond the constraints of what is generally known today as "classic rock."  Put another way, the music that was the best and the most popular music of the 1960s and early 1970s.

I've always thought that Sleater-Kinney was the perfect example of "semi-popular music."  If there was any justice in the world, SK would have been the biggest band in the world.  Over a period of ten years, the band - Guitarists and singers Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, and drummer Janet Weiss - released seven albums, and if Wikipedia is to be believed, none of them made it higher than #80 on the Billboard Hot 100.  I don't what that translates into in terms of record sales, but it's clear that we're not talking multi-platinum here.  Interestingly, one of the band members is actually on the verge of becoming semi-famous herself today - Carrie Brownstein, because of her co-starring role on the truly odd and sometimes very funny television show "Portlandia."

"Dig Me Out" was the band's best album - an album that grabs you by the throat on first listen, and just never lets go after that.  It contains 13 songs in 37 minutes, which means that we're in Ramones and Beatles territory in terms of brevity.  In a way, one could argue that "Dig Me Out" melds perfectly the pop sensibility of 1965-era Beatles with the punk (and pop) intensity of The Ramones.  But the music is even tougher than that - two guitars and drums, no bass, with guitar lines and vocals so intense they raise your pulse every time.  It's an almost unique blend of hard rock and pop that I don't think the band quite matched again in the course of its too short life, although they came close enough with each album that it was always worth listening.

There is not a single weak song on "Dig Me Out" - it is one of those rare albums that is a killer from the beginning to the end.  If forced to choose my favorites, I guess I would say the title track, "Turn It On," "Words and Guitar," Buy Her Candy," and the amazing closer, "Jenny."  But if you ask me tomorrow, I might come up with a whole new set.

Amazing stuff.  If anything, I've underrated it.  But there is some pretty amazing stuff yet to come.

Dig Me Out - Sleater-Kinney (1997)  Produced by John Goodmanson

Dig Me Out/One More Hour/Turn It On/The Drama You've Been Craving/Heart Factory/Words and Guitar/It's Enough/Little Babies/Not What You Want/Buy Her Candy/Things You Say/Dance Song '97/Jenny

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