Sleater-Kinney: One Beat (Kill Rock Stars)

Easily, it can be said now that they are the best band this country has to offer.

7:30 am nurse the baby on the couch
then the phone rings
Turn on the T.V.
watch the world explode in flames
and don’t leave the house

These are the first few lines from “Far Away,” the second song on Sleater-Kinney’s new CD, One Beat. Succinctly, the song captures the theme of this album and the band’s return to recording and touring after two years of silence. Vocalist Corin Tucker’s world has changed with the addition of a baby; our collective world was changed in a variety of ways by the brutal events of September 2001 and the responses since. The songwriting on this album reflects a brilliant and impassioned attempt by the band to deal with these new worlds.

The birth of a baby changes priorities forever as we look at the world with different eyes. Sleater-Kinney has always been a political band; now, though, the cause has a focus. “Step Aside” features a very Ramone-like (Phil, not Joey) feel with big horns and chanting choruses. It is a plea to get your butt out on the dance floor, but it is also an offer of an antidote for a headline that “makes me want to cry”—come together and shake a tail for peace and love to the one beat. “Combat Rock,” with its militaristic beat, slaps back at a government that tells us we have a choice of only two sides: for or against. “Hollywood Ending” takes a fantastic shot at what we try to be as opposed to what we are. Sleater-Kinney plaintively ask, “Will you still love them when the lights come up and you see my skin/if I’m less of myself will you love me more?”

Sleater-Kinney is hopeless in this world. For years, they have been proclaimed at “the best punk band.” Easily, it can be said now that they are the best band this country has to offer. Carrie Brownstein is Pete Townsend in his truest form with a better voice; Tucker’s vocals are amazing and otherworldly; Janet Weiss provides a perfect beat. Combine that with lyrics that are both insightful and built to move, and you can’t ask more from a rock band. Yet they are still the best band most people have never heard. Regardless, Sleater-Kinney just keeps making one good album after another. Maybe with One Beat, people will give them their due; listeners could find no better time to start than with this album.

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