Sleater-Kinney: Exhumed Idols

The feminist indie rock trio reunites after a near decade-long absence

sleater-kinney.com

sleater-kinney.com

“In one more hour, I will be gone,” Corin Tucker sang in a banshee-like howl during the final encore of the last Sleater-Kinney concert in Portland’s Crystal Ballroom. It was August 2006. Originally written about her break up with fellow bandmate Carrie Brownstein, it served as a fitting farewell for the last great American rock band pre-Internet. “It’s so hard for you to say goodbye,” Brownstein mumbled in response. The two figures haunted the stage as Janet Weiss rattled off a stampede of thunderous drums behind the pair.

These women weren’t afraid of being political to make a point.

The end of Sleater-Kinney was the end of an era. Following in the steps of their riot grrrl matriarchs and Pacific Northwest post-grunge predecessors, the band was formed in early ‘94 by Tucker and Brownstein, with Weiss joining two years and two albums later. Kurt Cobain died the same year.

The echo was heard again when a mysterious, blank 7” vinyl appeared in the band’s newly released box set, Start Together. “Exhume our idols! Bury our friends! We’re wild and weary but we won’t give in!” the scream-a-long, anthemic chorus cheers. With a reenergizing jolt of lightning, “Bury Our Friends” brought Sleater-Kinney back to life, as the free lead single off their comeback album No Cities to Love ignited the web.

Sleater-Kinney represents everything a great rock band can accomplish without an ego—a voice that refuses to be ignored.

Now primarily known for her comedic work with Fred Armisen in the sketch comedy series Portlandia, Brownstein and her band helped launch a wave of feminism in music that reverberates to this day. The women proudly appropriated traditional rock music icons to their pleasure. The cover of 1997’s “Dig Me Out” pays homage to The Kinks’ 1965 The Kink Kontroversy. “You’re No Rock n’ Roll Fun” off the 2000 album All Hands on the Bad One criticized their frequent reductive billing as a “girl band.” These women weren’t afraid of being political to make a point. 2002’s One Beat was in direct conversation with post-9/11 America. “The heart is hit in a city far away, but it feels so close,” Tucker tearfully observes in “Faraway.”

The humble Washingtonians last album, 2005’s The Woods was a cinematic end to their fiery run, with bursts of warm noise towering over their most incendiary songs. Sleater-Kinney represents everything a great rock band can accomplish without an ego—a voice that refuses to be ignored.