The drama that you’re craving: Sleater-Kinney

Rob Sheffield’s nine or ten out of ten review in Details published in the spring of 1997 introduced me to Sleater-Kinney. Unacquainted with Liliput, Essential Logic, Public Image Ltd, and the most violent aspects of post punk, I had no programmed responses to Dig Me Out. The indissoluble unit that was Corin Tucker’s vocals, Carrie Brownstein’s harmonies and tunings, and Janet Weiss’ drums fucked me. “Turn It On” and “Not What You Want” made me almost physically ill. A postpunk show I hosted on my college station in spring ’99 talked me into a tentative track-by-track acceptance, starting with “Dance Song ’97” (the chorus roller rink organ and acceptable chord sequence at the start helped). The Hot Rock had come and gone. By the time I bought All Hands on the Bad One the following summer the band had converted me. I accepted Greil Marcus’ enthusiasm for “Start Together.” I overrated All Hands on the Bad One, in retrospect their most fraught record, an estimable stab at uncurling the gender politics that the Tucker-Brownstein harmonies and riffs had gnarled, or to quote Marcus: “The drama here is less between two people than two sides of the same person, between the first person of any pop song and what in blues songs is called the second mind.” It was more obvious in fall ’00 when two girlfriends played The Hot Rock ad nauseam in their cars; could performance and songwriting sound better than “Start Together,” “Burn Don’t Freeze,” and “A Quarter to Three”?

Two friend straighter than I had no trouble loving S-K on first listen. With them we flew to Chicago to see two shows at the Metro. A few months later they opened for Pearl Jam in West Palm Beach, playing for a less hospitable straight male crowd (“Who are the dykes?” huffed the dude in front of me). Plus, their tautness dissolved in an open air amphitheater. But kudos to Pearl Jam; they were clearly jazzed by the company. Eddie Vedder even joined them for a cover of “Hunger Strike.” I traveled to Atlanta in summer ’05 to watch a show promoting The Woods, an overfuzzed and redundant album to which I still haven’t warmed but I won’t stop trying (forget “Entertain” though, its reactionary sentiments far less interesting melodically and rhythmically than X’s “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” and a portent of Brownstein’s dreadful NPR column).

Still, what a run: only Ghostface and Pavement could boast so many excellent albums since 1990. Because I still couldn’t write intelligently about them and was still struggling as a writer, I bombed an obit for Stylus. Trying to explain my initial revulsion, I stressed their ew-female qualities. I fucked it up and I’m sorry.

1. Dance Song ’97
2. Get Up
3. Dig Me Out
4. Turn It On
5. Anonymous
6. To the Beat
7. The Size of Our Love
8. Step Aside
9. You’re No Rock ‘n’ Roll Fun
10. Start Together
11. One Beat
12. The Drama That You’re Craving
13. Milkshake ‘n’ Honey
14. I’m Not Waiting
15. All Hands on the Bad One
16. Leave You Behind
17. The End of You
18. A Quarter to Three
19. Words and Guitar
20. Oh!
21. No Cities to Love
22. Bury Our Friends
23. The Ballad of a Ladyman
24. Fade
25. The Fox
26. Call the Doctor
27. Good Things
28. I’m Not Waiting
29. Buy Her Candy
30. Far Away

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