Saturday, July 15, 2006

Sleater-Kinney: The Drama I Was Craving

Before I heard Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out in the summer of 1997, my CD collection was naively devoid of anything about meat-and-potatoes rock like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and maybe even Hendrix. I still love those bands, but Sleater-Kinney opened my eyes not only to their amazing catalogue of music, but also to the catalogues of other equally amazing bands. Sleater-Kinney was my gateway band.

Coincidentally, I bought Radiohead's OK Computer and Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out on the same day in the summer of 1997. It's safe to say that particular day was the crucial turning point for my life as a music fan. While a nostalgic recollection of hearing OK Computer for the first time is very tempting, this space is dedicated to Janet, Corin, and Carrie for now. I will never forget putting on the headphones and hitting "play" at the listening station of my local Borders almost ten years ago. As a 16 year-old boy only accustomed to Kurt Cobain's tantrums and Billy Corgan's whining, Corin Tucker's passionate howl left me dumbstruck and enraptured. That was the only time in my life that I've stood at a listening station and listened to an entire album. Granted, I wasn't a girl, a riot-grrl, a lesbian, etc., but as a genuinely lost and lonely young person, Sleater-Kinney felt more real to me than anything else in the world.

Over the years, I have bought every subsequent Sleater-Kinney album on the date it was released. The Hot Rock, All Hands On The Bad One, One Beat, and The Woods were all consumed with anxious joy. One of the greatest things about Sleater Kinney is that their evolution as a band ran parallel with the evolution of my own personal tastes in music. Despite my nostalgic attachment to Dig Me Out, my favorite Sleater-Kinney albums are their two most recent albums: One Beat and The Woods. These two albums proved, more than any of their other albums, what a peerless Rock band they really were - especially in the notoriously half-assed world of indie rock.

As I stated earlier, Sleater-Kinney was my gateway to a whole new underbelly of the rock world. I quickly got familiar with their labelmates Elliott Smith and Bikini Kill, as well as the thriving Pacific Northwest indie-rock scene that was home to Built To Spill, Quasi, Modest Mouse, 764-Hero, Beat Happening, etc. Then there was the multitude of bands that Sleater-Kinney frequently cited or were compared to: The Ramones, Television, Sonic Youth, X-Ray Spex, and The Clash. Throughout my junior and senior years in high school, I absorbed an enormous amount of new and exciting music because of Sleater-Kinney. In hindsight, I'm glad they prepared me for being a "cool" nerd before I got to college.

As for the remaining snobs out there who still don't "get" Sleater-Kinney or just can't stomach an all women rock band, I only feel pity for you. As a music fan, one of my biggest pet peeves has been the continual need to defend my love of Sleater-Kinney. I am fiercely territorial of this and can only ask "what the fuck were you listening to when you were 16?"

Finally, I offer a list of my favorite Sleater-Kinney songs in no particular order:

I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone
Dig Me Out
One More Hour
Turn It On
The Drama You've Been Craving
Dance Song '97
Start Together
God Is A Number
Don't Talk Like
Get Up
The Size of Our Love
The Ballad of A Ladyman
All Hands On The Bad One
The Swimmer
Far Away
Light Rail Coyote
Step Aside
Combat Rock
Funeral Song
The Fox
Modern Girl
Let's Call It Love