November 1996

by Elizabeth Vincentelli

Sleater-Kinney's feminist lyrics have provoked plenty of analyses from critical corners, but at the end of the day they're just a band that rocks very, very hard. The Olympia, Wash., threesome embodies punk distilled to its purest essence: two guitars, drums, and raging, short songs that hit like bursts of adrenalin. At the same time, the trio avoids punk cliches on its latest album, Call the Doctor, by abruptly changing tempos and setting up intricate vocal interplay around singer and guitarist Corin Tucker's fierce outbursts.

Tucker and fellow frontwoman Carrie Brownstein realize that the band's ferocious level of intensity may be hard to sustain. "The songs will always come out of us," Brownstein says, but Corin and I have found ways to channel raw emotions and shape them a little more metaphorically. We're finding other avenues for getting out primal stuff."

Sleater-Kinney's reputation has spread fast throughout indie-rock circles, thanks in part to the band's two critically acclaimed albums on the indie label Chainsaw. But it's the blistering live shows that have cememnted the reputation: Watching Brownstein strike an unselfconscious guitar-heroine pose (this is, after all, a band who once covered Boston's "More Than a Feeling") is refreshing in an age when so many other musicians hide onstage behind a studied indifference. And with "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone," Sleater-Kinney might even have their own insta-classic. "The song is about all those bands that are like the kings of indie rock," Tucker says with a laugh. "There needs to be all-women bands that take that place. But it's also about jumping in and out of those roles. Imagine living your life like Joey Ramone!"