Sleater-Kin­ney makes a come­back

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Steve Ter­rell

The come­back kids In some al­ter­na­tive uni­verse, some par­al­lel world some­where over some rain­bow, the re­turn of SleaterKin­ney in 2015 with an al­bum as riv­et­ing as No Cities to Love is con­sid­ered to be as big as the re­turn of the Bea­tles was in 1975. (This is a sep­a­rate re­al­ity, re­mem­ber.)

Of course, it’s not quite like that here in the ma­te­rial world. Truth is, most folks don’t value rock ’n’ roll as much as many of us used to. Per­haps Sleater re­ally was the great­est band alive when it went on “hia­tus” nearly a decade ago. But out­side of alt-rock or punk rock cir­cles, it wasn’t and, sadly, still isn’t uni­ver­sally known. I’ve got a feel­ing that Car­rie Brown­stein is more fa­mous for her co-star­ring role on the com­edy se­ries

Port­landia than she is for her role with Sleater-Kin­ney. So, for those not familiar with this im­por­tant band, here’s the lowdown: This Pa­cific North­west group is a trio with Brown­stein and Corin Tucker on vo­cals and gui­tar and Janet Weiss on drums. Sleater-Kin­ney’s self­ti­tled de­but al­bum was re­leased in 1995, at the tail end of the Riot Gr­rrl scene, but S-K quickly tran­scended the generic girl-punk sound.

Vox re­cently de­scribed the group as a “left-lean­ing, fem­i­nism-preach­ing” band. Maybe that’s true, but the beauty of Sleater-Kin­ney is that it rarely, if ever, sounded like it was preach­ing. Any pol­i­tics in the band’s songs were sub­tle and per­sonal — no slo­ga­neer­ing or polemics. The group grew and ac­tu­ally in­ten­si­fied through the years, never los­ing its orig­i­nal fran­tic en­ergy. It split up af­ter its 2005 al­bum, The Woods .

We rock ’n’ roll die-hards tend to view come­backs with jaun­diced, jaded eyes, de­spite some good ones re­turn­ing in re­cent years — Mission of Burma, Jon Spencer Blues Ex­plo­sion, and the Afghan Whigs, for ex­am­ple, came back with strong records. No Cities to

Love is also one of the good ones: It’s an un­mit­i­gated joy.

I con­sider Wild Flag , the 2011 al­bum by the group with the same name, which in­cludes two-thirds of Sleater — Brown­stein and Weiss — (as well as singer/gui­tarist Mary Ti­mony, who fronted the ’90s indie band Helium) to be a pre­cur­sor of

No Cities to Love . Shortly be­fore then, Tucker made a solo record she de­scribed as “mid­dle-aged-mom” mu­sic. (As I said back then, de­spite my se­nior cit­i­zen­ship, I’m still not ready for “mid­dle-aged-mom” stuff.) But in 2012, she came back with a harder edge with Kill My Blues . With that and Wild Flag , I should have known that re­viv­ing Sleater-Kin­ney wasn’t an im­pos­si­ble dream.

No Cities opens with “Price Tag” — with what first ap­pears as a lazy, al­most bluesy groove. But sec­onds later, the drums kick in, the beat speeds up, and Tucker starts singing ur­gently: “The bell goes off/The buzzer coughs/The traf­fic starts to buzz,” and all of a sud­den we’re in the mid­dle of the rat race, punch­ing a time­card at a crappy job, stock­ing shelves and wor­ry­ing. Tucker sings as if she’s be­ing crushed by the pres­sure — and the mu­sic is even more anx­ious than the lyrics.

Sim­i­larly, the stark, mus­cu­lar “Gimme Love” is about some­one who was born “too small, too weak, too weird” and who is “numb from the wicked this life im­parts,” while “Sur­face Envy” em­ploys images of drown­ing, though it’s a hope­ful song. In the last verse, Tucker sings, “I’m break­ing the sur­face, tast­ing the air/ Reach­ing for things I never could be­fore.”

But all is not so heavy on this al­bum. In fact, “A New Wave,” sung by Brown­stein, who also plays a dis­torted, rub­ber-toned gui­tar, re­minds me of The B52s. (The of­fi­cial video for this tune fea­tures a car­toon ver­sion of the band play­ing for char­ac­ters from Bob’s Burg­ers.)

In the fi­nal cho­rus of “Bury Our Friends,” Tucker and Brown­stein sing, “We speak in cir­cles, we dance in code/Untame and hun­gry, on fire in the cold/ Ex­hume our idols, bury our friends/We’re wild and weary but we won’t give in.”

Sleater-Kin­ney is com­ing to Al­bu­querque for a show at the Sun­shine Theater on April 28. I’ve got my ticket. You should get yours. Visit www.sun­shinethe­ater­live. com/get_­tagged/Sleater%20Kin­ney. Here’s hop­ing Sleater-Kin­ney stays wild and never gives in.

Also rec­om­mended: ▼ Ballsier by The Grannies. Amer­ica needs this mu­sic. The coun­try needs mu­si­cians like th­ese, who aren’t afraid to dress up like night­mar­ish par­o­dies of old ladies and play crazy, ag­gres­sive, funny, pro­fane, po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect, and ridicu­lous mu­sic. The Grannies don’t care if they make it on net­work TV or get in­vited to the White House — or any­where else where there is po­lite com­pany. They don’t care that they’ll never play the Su­per Bowl — though any­one who has sur­vived one of their shows knows the Su­per Bowl would be much cooler if they did.

This al­bum is punk rock — punk rock as the good Lord in­tended it to sound. It’s 11 snot-slin­gin’, beer­spit­tin’, break­neck, gut-bustin’ punk rock songs with ti­tles like “Wade in Bloody Wa­ter,” “Outta My Skull,” “Hill­billy With Knife Skills,” and sev­eral, gen­tle read­ers, that we can’t print in a “fam­ily” news­pa­per. And there’s a crunch­ing cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right.” The al­bum is pro­duced by Seat­tle ti­tan Jack Endino, who’s been be­hind the knobs on some of your finer grunge and punk records.

Only Saus­tex Records would be ir­re­spon­si­ble enough to re­lease this mess. Check out www.saus­tex.com/ the-grannies.html.

We rock ’n’ die-hards tend to view come­backs with jaun­diced, jaded eyes.

No Cities to Love is one of the good ones: It’s an un­mit­i­gated joy.

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