The Hot Rock (Kill Rock Stars)
By: Alex Steininger
Riot Grrls. Punk. Indie rock. All these labels have been used to describe Sleater-Kinney and their unique sound. But, no matter what label you try to force on these three lovely females (two from Olympia, Washington and one from Portland, Oregon) you're going to be leaving something out. A wicked blend of dueling guitars that can scream and burn one minute and be soft and sparkling the next along with tremendous beats courtesy of Janet Weiss, Sleater-Kinney redefines rock 'n' roll and proves it's not just a boys game. On their forth full-length (second for Kill Rock Stars) they break all the barriers and just play rock 'n' roll.
Opening with "Start Together," the vocal harmonies of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein are widely apparent and help set the mood for a disc full of standout rock 'n' roll that refuses to be anything but high octane, serious, and fun. The guitars go from shining, hook-filled riffs that sparkle and shake to pure power that nearly floors you if you're not careful. The drums play along in this atmosphere appropriately, jumping from medium to maximum strength in less than a heart beat each time. Completely relaxed and comfortable, these three rip through this number without ever looking back.
"Burn, Don't Freeze" continues down the wide path Sleater-Kinney has created for themselves, which is merely an open field for them to play around with their guitar, drums, and vocal creativeness. Filled with the energy that is their trademark, as well as the spirit and hooks that make each song come alive, they'll have you moving your body to every chord they strum or strike.
Serving up a poppy number you can dance and bounce too, "Banned From the End of the World" showcases a sweet, lighter Sleater-Kinney without ever letting go of the edge that stuns listeners each and every time their music pours from some source, whether it be recorded or live. At first it seems to be light and a bit sugary, but once you pay attention to the lyrics and listen to the song a few more times, you'll feel the energy beat on you.
The first single, "Get Up," begins with the band talking over the music. Rather than singing the words, they're able to pull even more emotions out of them by slowing them down and speaking straight to the listener. From there though, they continue on with their usual use of rougher lead vocals and beautifully soft, elegant backing vocals, bringing everything full circle.
Slowing things down a bit to bring forth a very mellow, laid-back feeling, "The Size of Our Love" uses the violin and viola to set the appropriate mood for the listener. Still packing a punch though, the band will rock you no matter what sort of territory they decide to navigate. One of the loveliest songs on this disc, the violin and viola add a soothing effect, while the enchanting vocals gently sway the listener and make them feel so relaxed and free.
Ending with "A Quarter to Three," the band slows the pace down once more with a soft (for them) song that isn't as aggressive as the others, but, again, the power is still alive and well. Beautiful and calm, yet still energetic enough to move too, they sum everything up, while also leaving you with a craving for the repeat button.
Easily one of the hottest albums that will be released in 1999, Sleater-Kinney keeps exposing themselves for the talent they are. If you weren't sure before, this disc proves these girls can rock harder than anyone can. I'll give it an A+.