Sleater-Kinney: A Few Words on Technology and Guitars
by Stephanie Quinlan
Olympia, Washington's Sleater-Kinney started out as a punk-rock band, and you can still hear it in them today. The dual-guitar assault; the short, choppy chords; and the energetic wall of noise that emerges when Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss join forces all say "punk!" in all its youthful exuberance.
Given Sleater-Kinney's stripped-down approach to music and recording, it was appropriate to come across a song on their latest album, The Hot Rock, that addresses the pitfalls of modern technology.
"God Is A Number" enumerates the increased technological presence our world, observing sardonically that we "grow up on the Internet/get off on TV." The most telling line simply says that the band is "looking for some kind of heart inside this great machine." Corin Tucker elaborated when I spoke to her prior to Sleater-Kinney's (now-canceled) North American tour.
"We, as a society, have this idea that technology can solve all of the problems in society, and what we need to remember is our humanity and our sense of community," says Tucker. "As wonderful as it is, there are some things that technology just cannot replace."
Electronica and other computer-based styles of music became quite the trend in the mid-'90s - which placed a traditional guitar band like Sleater-Kinney in a perplexing position.
"Electronic music was so hyped by the media and all the record companies," Tucker recalls. "It's funny because all these kids who are into that style of music were saying 'Rock is dead!' And then all of a sudden rock is back, and we're thinking 'Hello? We never went away. We were always here.'
"I mean, I love guitars and guitar music, and I think there'll always be people who want to listen to that kind of music."