Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fall Down on the World: The Music of Sleater-Kinney, Pt. 3--Treasure Chest Fulla Titles


John Goodmanson behind the boards for the first time (he would also help any number of extraneous circumstances not fuck up two future SK albums, All Hands on the Bad One and One Beat), cover pilfered from The Kink Kontroversy, and a new drummer in the person of Janet Weiss, who brought a few extra years of kicking ass to the table...Dig Me Out is arguably Sleater-Kinney's most worshipped album.

"Dig Me Out"--The hosannas are plentiful and well-deserved. The first song Carrie and Corin played for the new girl is the first song of the album and shows that if Andre the Giant Has a Posse, Janet Weiss Has a Sniper Rifle. Like the best lover you've ever had, Janet exposes all those who came before her as pitiful charlatans. And it only takes one time.

Carrie's riff is even more furiously entreating than the words. "Outta my body/Outta my skin." A gesture made by women understood by women, and those who understand women. That spirit of confrontation has not left them over the two years since their debut, but they've channelled it far better than any of their influences. The difference between Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill, musically, is the difference between walking a tightrope with or without a net.

"One More Hour"--Rob Sheffield's phenomenally readable memoir Love is a Mix Tape is a tribute to love, music, the love of music, and--wait for it, Godot--the music of love. Moments of triumph, tragedy and trifle are all memorably soundtracked. No reminiscence is more poignant than the funeral of Sheffield's wife, writer Renee Crist. While the actual service featured but one song--"Shall We Gather At the River," a standard hymn--Sheffield's inner stereo was blasting "One More Hour."

As far as searing pleas for time go, "One More Hour" isn't particularly mournful or bitter; nor is it hopeful. There is no real hint as to the direction Corin's recovery will take. The room she is left alone in represents sweet days gone sour. Either it undergoes a drastic redecoration or remains untouched.

The song's cardiac pull becomes outright push when you consider the inspiration for it was taken from real life: the romance of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. (The love that Spin magazine dare not respect the privacy of.) Listening to Carrie beseech her ex to "let it go" and "say goodbye" while Corin tries to express in words tender in their simplicity exactly what the experience meant to her ("I needed it") is just too much, but it's just enough.

"Turn It On"--That's three perennial people-pleasers all duck-like already. Damnation. Sleater-Kinney wouldn't have got the attention and accolades they did if they were three guys playing the same ass. Three guys--anywhere at anytime--wouldn't have come up with these same songs. It's not about the design of the wheel, it's about the durability. You may as well say, Ah, Bad Brains are overrated, people just namedrop them 'cause they're black. Please please you!

SK treats androcentrism like the world treats Mr. Bill. Sugar and spice? Nah. Paraffin and potassium nitrate, more like. They're subject to the infuriating apathy, borderline idolatory, and invincible prejudices that make up the world because they bare themselves for themselves. The knife goes in, the guts come out, and that's what being an artist is all about. "It's too hard/It's too good."

"The Drama You've Been Craving"--Intense repetition pumps along the call-and-response.

"Heart Factory"--The ICD from the last album is doing your body fine, but wouldn't you like a brand-new ready-made ticker pulsing the way it's s'pose to? Sure.

Not chilling like a Stepfather Factory (the latest in technology!), this is a different beat altogether. The guitars, rather than the voices, play off of each other here and how glorious it is. Do you hate anthems? Then this is your anthem. Carrie the saleswoman, Corin the disgruntled consumer.

"Words and Guitar"--Wag yer tail. Galvanize yer life. "Music is the air I breathe." From a racket to a lull and back, now you see why the heart factory can barely keep up with the demand.

"It's Enough"--No one has ever said the word "enough" more distinctively than Corin does here. It makes me wanna kiss a red velvet cupcake. A compact fixture-shaker, fer sher.

"Little Babies"--Special punks need the most attention!

Fuck that, it's Carrie's Special Dark Chocolate bumped up against Corin's Krackle in a fight to the sugar coma! Puerile chorus, but kids love candy. I've never been able to shake the instinct that tells me this song is at its core very despondent in spirit.

"Not What You Want"--With a warrior wiggle not seen since the heyday of Rygar, our golden trio duplicates the sensation of wind burn as experienced by the feelers of highway bugs. DESTINATION: IRRELEVANT.

"Buy Her Candy"--I was in the audience for Sleater-Kinney's last show on the East Coast in August 2006 (and I was also there for when it wasn't their last show on the East Coast). Janet's technical problems made room for a rare live rendition of this drum-free beauty. It hadn't been played since 1999, and wouldn't appear again for the remainder of that final tour. As grateful as I was that we in DC were spared "One More Hour" (their traditional closer that year, assuring their fans left the club as complete emotional wrecks), in a way "Buy Her Candy" pierces the heart just as lethally. The novelty of the moment--shit, the honor of the moment--kept me, protected me even, from feeling it too intensely (and I'm a woman who has to fight back tears at the sight of cardinals, okay).

Crush hard; crush harder. It's like watching someone cry over you as the last breaths leave your body.

"Things You Say"--Corin does two things with her immoderately gifted voice: race up the stairs and keep time from killing itself.

"Dance Song '97"--Songs like these weed out the class from the crass at parties.

One guitar buffs steel, the other creates ice crystals. Keys open doors. Winner of the boogie showdown is...Janet! 2:23 on is a smashbug John Waters would clutch pearls over.

"Jenny"--I ain't a Jenny; don't call me a Jenny. Only two people get to call me that, and they follow it with an endearment that is the construction of the pyramids to you. Can you imagine anyone calls Corin Tucker "Cor"? Only if they think she deserves it!

Wins and losses are runner-ups forever to the persistence of memory in a world without end. The frame will never hide the truth of the picture for very long.

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