Sleater-Kinney Is For Lovers
Sleater-Kinney are back. And Lis Ferla is really bloody excited.
So, where were you when you found out that Sleater-Kinney were getting back together? I was at my desk, in an office directly across the road from the one where, eight years ago, I found out that my favourite band were calling an ‘indefinite hiatus’. The idea was never that the trio were breaking up: rather, as singer / guitarist Carrie Brownstein put it in an email to her sometime colleagues at NPR, that the band was never “something you can do half-assed or half-heartedly”.
There’s never been anything half-hearted about Sleater-Kinney. The band was formed around the songwriting core of Brownstein, who played with queercore punks Excuse 17, and Corin Tucker of Heavens to Betsy, one of the original riot grrrl bands. They were lovers, and then they weren’t – but they kept making raw, passionate, political music anyway. Drummer Janet Weiss joined the band in 1996, providing the band’s backbone and becoming its longest-serving drummer. As for half-assed: well, they announced their reunion via a 7” snuck into their recently-released vinyl retrospective box set marked only with the date of a Tuesday in January and containing a new song. I dare ya to come up with a more stylish comeback story.
As is so often the case with the things that ultimately come to define you, I can’t really remember a time when Sleater-Kinney weren’t a part of my life or how they got there in the first place. It might have been ‘Combat Rock’ or ‘Oh!’, tracks from the pop-and-politics of 2002’s One Beat snuck onto a mixtape or two, but it was during my postgraduate year in Edinburgh that the band became my constant. Away from home for the first time, I picked up the older albums that would become my favourites – Call The Doctor and Dig Me Out – from Avalanche on Cockburn Street. I’d soundtrack my drunken walks home through the Grassmarket to the tune of ‘Little Babies’, and keep myself company on those nights in my room on my own with the girls who wanted to be my Joey Ramone.
That night I stalked Corin Tucker in the loos, and got her to sign my ticket with the kohl that was the only writing implement I had in my bag – a fact that, almost a decade later and as a semi-professional music journalist, I still can’t bring myself to get embarrassed about. When I see them for the third time at the ABC next year, I’ll want to do it all over again at 32 and show her the tattoo – a Bikini Kill turntable logo spitting out a bar from their duelling heartbreaker ‘One More Hour’ – I got in the band’s honour earlier this year.
Two months after the Oran Mor show, I was in the media tent at T in the Park in my “Sleater-Kinney is for Lovers” t-shirt, commiserating with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie before an interview. “That’s why you’re my favourite band now,” I told him, ever the picture of unflappable indie cool. But the words rang a little hollow, because until a certain Brooklyn-by-way-of-Minneapolis bar band came along, there wouldn’t be another band who would encapsulate that phrase as perfectly as Sleater-Kinney did.
In the end there was no drama, no fanfare: just eleven years and six fantastic albums, and a trio that the music press were eventually forced into respecting for their longevity and their talent regardless of the fact that they happened to be girls. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds.