Monday, April 11, 2011

The Wash Up: Sleater Kinney

Speaking about Janet Weiss recently got me thinking about has there ever been a more clearly delineated break in a band than Sleater Kinney? Sleater-Kinney were a punk/rock band from Olympia who came out of the riot grrl movement but far exceeded the confines of that limited definition. They are often given that condescending pat on the back, pretty good for a girl band, which is bullshit because they were were one of the great bands of the 90's/00's full stop, regardless of gender. Made up of Weiss and the twin guitar/singing duo of Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker, they're one of the fiercest live bands I've seen and made at least six great records (and one less great one).

In 2006, they announced they were going on 'permanent hiatus' which generally means either the band can't stand each other or they can't stand be on tour anymore. The general explanation was that Corin Tucker didn't want to tour with two small children which is fair enough. However, this came off the back of The Woods, an album that was a big stylistic change for the band which ditched the spiky punk of the past for a psyched out fuzzy big rock sound. It wasn't long into the tour for that record that the band announced their impending break.

Some five years later, it's interesting to see how the band has been split into two distinct camps. Corin Tucker released a solo record last year that sounds distinctly like classic Sleater Kinney although somewhat subdued. It features none of the big rock of The Woods and it's a joy to hear Tucker's distinctive voice again after such a long time.

Her bandmates Weiss and Brownstein have undertaken a bunch of projects* but have recently formed Wild Flag with Mary Timony (Helium) and Rebecca Cole (the Minders). The first taste of their music, Glass Tambourine, is all 60's psyche garage rock that refines The Woods aesthetic into a Stooges'esque freak out. It's pretty good actually.
Glass Tambourine by Wild Flag by Timedoor

So while the split is amicable, it seems that the two sides of the trio were heading in different directions musically. If you compare the two songs above and didn't know the major players in each band had played together previously, there is nothing sonically to suggest they ever did. Not that there's anything wrong with that, just an observation. But listening to these bands makes me miss Sleater-Kinney, if only because they frickin' rocked and I met my girlfriend at one of their gigs.

* I wonder if Janet Weiss regrets having a bird on her kick drum in the Entertain video after Brownstein's skit in Portlandia:

Just sayin'.


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