Sleater-Kinney - Dig Me Out (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Dig Me Out (1997)

Kill Rock Stars

Olympia, Washington’s Sleater-Kinney was already well established by the time Dig Me Out, their third album, was released on April 8th, 1997 on Kill Rock Stars, but this was the album where they really locked in and climbed to the top of the heap of the riot grrrl bands. Bikini Kill is the band people often name as being one of the most important bands of that movement, but Sleater-Kinney were just as important and rocked just as loudly, while being better songwriters and musicians. Plus, Bikini Kill had a dude in the band. I mean, c’mon!

Sleater-Kinney were a supergroup of sorts within that scene, with Corin Tucker (guitar, vocals) and Carrie Brownstein (guitar, vocals) already well known for Heavens to Betsy and Excuse 17 respectively. The biggest reason for Sleater-Kinney kicking it up several notches on Dig Me Out is Janet Weiss, who added yet a third established Northwest musician to the trio. Throughout their first two years SK had three different drummers who were just fine, but Janet Weiss is one of the best drummers of our generation, of any gender. She was known for the band Quasi, but SK brought her a whole other level of notoriety. Her beats on this album are inventive and unique, powerful and commanding of your attention. Along with the individual tones and playing style of Tucker and Brownstein’s guitar parts, not to mention their unmistakable individual vocal timbres--both women weaving their parts together in amazing ways--this is a band where no individual person or instrument is more important than another. (Though Brownstein has called Weiss “the most gifted member of the band, the one with the largest musical lexicon and sphere from which to draw influence and reference.”) Sleater-Kinney has never had a bassist, and while I’ve always thought bands like this show a noticeable gap in their sonic breadth (White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs), SK is a band where I forget they don’t have a four-stringer.

On Dig Me Out,, the title track busts things wide open from the second you press play, showcasing all three ladies at once. Tucker’s punk-flavored vibrato, like a female Jello Biafra, cannot be denied in the song’s earworm chorus. “Words and Guitar,” my favorite track, highlights how Brownstein’s alto vocal range and Tucker’s soprano compliment each other so well. Most bands are lucky to have one great singer with talent and personality, let alone two.

“Things You Say” spotlights one of those unique drum parts I was talking about, with Weiss breaking her kit down to its individual parts, alternating ride and snare with sporadic hi-hat and tom accents in the offbeats, and then she builds it all back together to form a strong 60s influenced beat, one of her signature tricks. “One More Hour” starts with a scrappy, sparse beat before Weiss heads to the ride as Tucker rips with her signature wobbly wail. “Little Babies” starts with a stripped snare and tom pattern, which locks into that go-go beat just in time for the other two ladies to singing a catchy “dum-diddy-dum,” and then the drums strip back down. These women can come at ya hard with no-nonsense political and social commentary, but they can also get sugary and catchy as hell.

The trio pull in the reigns to show their range on a couple slower numbers, “Buy Her Candy” and the dynamic head-banging closer “Jenny.” The album showcases a wide range of raw rock and roll from a dynamic and talented trio. Dig Me Out is the album that cemented Sleater-Kinney’s legacy as he best of the riot grrrl acts of the movement, and a force to be reckoned with for years to come, with the band putting out four more records and then seemingly fading away in 2006. After a long hiatus, the band came back with a vengeance on 2015’s No Cities to Love and thank god, because the world needs these kickass ladies.