Published Categorised as Music 1 Comment on Sleat­er-Kinney

Cover of Sleater-Kinney's the Hot Rock album

A few weeks ago I went to see Sleat­er-Kinney, one of my favour­ite bands, at the Round­house. They had been on hiatus since 2006, with the members work­ing on other projects like Portland­ia in the mean­time, so I was pleased and surprised when they announced a new album and tour. The last time they had played in the UK was when I was doing my finals, so I’d had to give it a miss. I’d seen them before at Read­ing Fest­iv­al, but I never really count short after­noon fest­iv­al sets at massive outdoor fest­ivals like Read­ing as really seeing a band prop­erly, because you’re basic­ally watch­ing them on a tv screen stand­ing at the other end of a field (one of the many reas­ons I don’t go to them any more). I don’t think I have ever been to such a big gig as the Round­house one where I just constantly ran into so many people I know and like, it was almost too much, there was someone new to say hello to every time I turned around . The band them­selves were superb, and played for an hour and half. I don’t think you could ask for more, really.

In my second year at univer­sity I had a job in a photo lab with hardly any custom­ers, which was being wound down by the umbrella corpor­a­tion. I was essen­tially in charge of the stereo because I had simil­ar music taste to the manager, and I had a cd burn­er and he didn’t (we didn’t trust leav­ing real cds in the shop), and the other guy who worked there’s favoured genre was Oper­at­ic Metal (and what they call in Finland “Hero Metal”). It was a very strange job in many ways, and I’m in the process of writ­ing about it for a zine. The lack of custom­ers meant I didn’t have to worry too much about scar­ing them off with my music choices. I remem­ber play­ing S-K’s albums All Hands on the Bad One and their self-titled debut on rota­tion along with Wash­ing Machine by Sonic Youth, Neon Golden by the Notwist and vari­ous Cat Power albums. About the same time I also went on holi­day to Iceland and paid a visit to Smekkley­sa record shop in Reyk­javik, the iceland­ic equi­val­ent to Rough Trade. They had a mini museum of the label/​shop in there with an exhib­i­tion of Björk’s costumes and ephem­era, and I picked up Dig Me Out on vinyl for about £12. It was the only cheap thing I encountered in Iceland besides fish. It was an excel­lent after­noon.

Women are still shame­fully under-repres­en­ted in altern­at­ive music (as are minor­ity groups- although straight white men are actu­al a numer­ic­al minor­ity, they are just an over-pandered to and cosseted minor­ity), and often treated as some­what of a novelty when they are present. You see far, far too many gigs where the whole lineup is one group of white men after anoth­er all even­ing, and it’s seen as perfectly normal. You’re supposed to stand on the side­lines admir­ing, rather than doing it your­self (some­thing S-K talk about in their song “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone”)

There’s still this sense that women are allowed to sing or play the bass or keyboard as long as they take care to be pretty while they do it, but other instru­ments or elec­tron­ics are a bit of a chal­lenge for their poor fluffy brains (see this article by Claire Boucher/​Grimes about her exper­i­ences or my friend Stephanie’s article about her exper­i­ences of being a black woman in punk bands). The dreaded words “she’s good… for a girl” or “you know a lot about music… for a girl” get wheeled out far too often, like the expect­a­tions are extremely low, but if you do manage to surpass that low baseline you’re some kind of novelty perform­ing poodle (and you’d better be a conven­tion­ally attract­ive perform­ing poodle while you’re at it, or there’s no point to you even exist­ing). There’s also still a lurk­ing idea that “female” is a genre of music, or that riot grrl means “there are women in this band” rather than refer­ring to a specif­ic genre of music from a partic­u­lar time peri­od. Or bands are referred to as “the female version of all-male-band”. One of the things I like so much about Sleat­er-Kinney is that they are very much them­selves, with their own distinct­ive sound.

Here is a Spoti­fy playl­ist I made with songs from each of their albums, arranged in chro­no­lo­gic­al order, from their more rauc­ous begin­nings through the vari­ous evol­u­tions of their sound. Enjoy.

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