I really am not sure if the nomenclature is right for the brand of music that the S-K made but this girl band from the state of Washington kicked major arse! The first time I caught wind of them I was in Raleigh reading a Time Magazine article about them and the rise of the riot grrls. Released in 1999, ‘The Hot Rock’ leaped to the front of my CD rotation. The lyrics, focused and intelligent, were backed by the kind of guitar play that would remind me of ‘The Only Band That Matters’. When I first started to collect their older stuff I would wonder why they weren’t widely known, bigger than the pigeon-hole they were stuck in, I would find out that they WANTED it that way, further validating the comparison that I made between them and The Clash.
One of their agendas was to empower women in rock and they would rather appeal to that segment of the population than they would want for commercial success. It would not be until their final album, ‘The Woods’ that they worked with a major label. Carrie Brownstein, who sings and played lead guitar for the band had let out on NPR that she is in the studio with some other of the riot grrls as well as former bandmates, working on a project. I will keep my ear to the ground for that!
What ever it was she needed to be ‘dug out of’, Carrie sang like it was a matter of life or death that you got your shovel and started digging! On the surface the song seems to be about the headache of being in love with someone who is so meh about her. When you fast forward a few years to ‘Get Up’, things are much more promising as it seems she was up and out and into living again.
When the body finally starts to let go let all go at once… not piece by piece… but like a whole bucket of stars dumped into the universe …
Isn’t that a great line or what? Then if you want to get an idea of how I feel about my new town (in spite of all the darned hills here!!), there is this verse to let you know about where I am at, spiritually –
I hit the mark… I target moon, I target sky, I target sun… Fall down on the world, fall down on the world… fall down on the world before it falls on you…
Besides keeping to their principles and holding unto their mission, another quality that they share with The Clash is that SK never seemed to make a bad song and it felt like each tune I heard from them was my favorite SK song! ‘I Wanna Be Yr Joey Ramone’ really encapsulates what early Sleater-Kinney was about for me. I can hear the doubts about whether or not girls can rock as hard as guys and if it was worth all the grief about their sexuality. But they could not help but make the kind of music that was as far removed from Britney Spears bubble gum-pop or Pussycat Doll kitsch as any kind of girl music could be.
“I Wanna Be Yr Joey Ramone” crackles with energy. There is no passivity, none of the teary ‘why won’t Johnny dance with me’ running through it like a lot of love songs. Same anguish but theirs is the kind of anguish that would slash Johnny’s tires and punch his cheerleader girlfriend in the mouth! And you should know why it made the list of ‘50 Greatest Guitar Riffs’ as determined by someone who wanted to take a break and produced a ‘write itself’ article!