Sunday, February 08, 2015
Sleater-Kinney: Rock 'n Roll #likeagirl
Notwithstanding their relative obscurity (the manifestation of what Robert Christgau once called "semi-popular music"), it really isn't much of a stretch to argue that Sleater-Kinney is one of the greatest bands in the history of rock music. At the same time, it's not that difficult to understand why they've never achieved the mainstream success that they now seem poised to make a run at - as melodic as many (most?) of their songs are, they're as loud and hard as hard rock gets - theirs is not music to play in the background while you're trying to do something relaxing. It demands your attention, and once it has it, it's not going to let go of you any time soon. And then there's the matter of the fact that the band is comprised of three women, which makes me wonder how many metal heads would even bother to give it a listen. Never mind that Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker do things with their guitars that are hard to fathom, and that Janet Weiss' drumming frequently threatens to make Charlie Watts and John Bonham sound like wimps - you know, they're girls.
So...how good is the new album?
About 1997's "Dig Me Out," which to these ears is the band's best album (#30 on my all-time list), Robert Christgau wrote, "one reason you know they're young is that they obviously believe they can rock and roll at this pitch forever." "No Cities to Love" is the album which proves that they just might be able to do just that. Clocking in at an economical 33 minutes ("Rocket to Russia," anyone?), the album doesn't sound like a "comeback record" - it sounds like the next natural progression in the band's evolution - as if it were recorded back in 2006, and kept in the vaults until now to unleash on an unsuspecting public. There are no slow songs, and right now I'd argue that at least six of the album's ten songs are classics - "Price Tag," "Surface Envy," "A New Wave," "No Anthems," "Bury Our Friends" and "Fade." A very positive sign is that I keep changing my mind about which ones I like best, which usually means that a record will have staying power. Right now it's clearly the album to beat for the #1 spot in 2015, and it wouldn't shock me at all to see it remain at the top at year's end.
Does this mean that Sleater-Kinney is about to become a household word? I'm not sure I would go that far, but there's little doubt in my mind that it will easily become the band's best seller. Carrie Brownstein is now reasonably famous for her role as the co-star and co-auteur of "Portlandia," so there's one potential group of new fans. And the late night guys clearly love them; they've already done turns on Letterman, Conan, and Seth Meyers. But whatever success they achieve, it's well-earned and long overdue.