I think it's awesome when just a trio can put out great albums. Green Day, the Lawrence Arms, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists...the list goes on and on, and it takes a lot of talent to pull it off (although I'm not discrediting foursomes, fivesomes, or even huge bands like the great Broken Social Scene or Tim DeLaughter's Polyphonic Spree).
Sleater-Kinney is another example of a great trio who in their career never really broke a streak of fantastic albums. Now, while I never was that much into their early releases such as Call the Doctor or their self-titled album, The Hot Rock is when they really did it for me. Still, I can't discredit the amazing Dig Me Out, which still makes rounds on my playlists ("Heart Factory" is a great song).
This album really brought the band into a more accepting indie scene. While it's true that that singer Corin Tucker was a member of the Riot Grrl band Heavens to Betsy, Sleater-Kinney ended up being a pretty vital band before their hiatus in 2006.
The band had an interesting setup that included two guitarists and a drummer. The only catch is that one of would them tune their guitar down to fill the role of a bass, which sounded pretty cool, especially in songs like "Living In Exile" and "Hot Rock."
I should also mention how great SK was live. Their ability to whip the crowd up into a frenzy was always fun to watch, especially Corin Tucker and her outspoken views on current affairs, etc. After being mistaken for groupies at a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion show, she told the audience: "We just want to say that we're not here to fuck the band. We are the band." Definitely a nice touch to a backstage mishap.
"God Is a Number" is a great song with a fantastic chorus. Opening with the lyrics "We're a reference number, a code, a screen, an army out of digits, out of fax machines," it really speaks to the listener about our almost complete reliance on technology in the modern world.
"Don't Talk Like" is another hit on this particular album. The beginning is a quiet shuffle that reminds me of the Japanese band the Pillows and their song "Funny Bunny." Pretty good stuff here as well.
I guess if I had to have one complaint here, it'd be that sometimes the vocals can get a little overbearing on some songs. I think both singers are still great but sometimes it's a little too extreme for my taste when there's nothing but a throaty warble on the opening track "Start Together." Still, it's a good opener with nice guitars and great drumming from Janet Weiss.
"Get Up" is another song I've never really been a huge fan of. The whole talking-during-a-song thing kind of turns me off, but it's by no means a horrible song or anything. I just kind of prefer the calmer singing of guitarist/vocalist Carrie Brownstein.
In conclusion, Sleater-Kinney was a formidable opponent in the indie music scene. They toured relentlessly as a band, and were able to hang up in 2006 without a scratch on their record, making them extremely talented musicians. Now that Janet Weiss is drumming for Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, only time will tell if SK will be reuniting in the future.
Anyways, I highly recommend purchasing The Hot Rock. Even if you're not big into all-female bands, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised giving this gem a listen. These women really knew how to put out thought-provoking albums and rarely strayed from their trademark sound, which was not really a bad thing at all in my opinion.
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