26 January 2009


Dig Me Out
Kill Rock Stars, 1997

By the time Sleater-Kinney made their third album, Dig Me Out, singer Corin Tucker had learned to well and truly belt it out, starting off on the title track with a common enough whine and building up to a wail that sounded like a banshee sitting on a sewing pin. She had honed her talents in an earlier band, Heavens To Betsy, a group familiar with songs about sexual abuse and a particular imagination of the female body as, in the words of journalist Johnny Huston, "a battleground to be torn apart by abortion, menstruation and molestation". Later she had taken vocal lessons from a retired opera singer who didn't entirely understand her in return for doing the household chores – taking on shit-kicker jobs in order to better kick the shit out of her audience. Tucker's partner in crime Carrie Brownstein once said to Spin: "I can't relax when our music is playing – I don't know how anyone can." The fact that a band once known for clearing entire rooms of men with their ear-splitting screech can be so loved by someone like myself, who, it should be clear by now, generally fails to relate to female musicians, is one of the more wonderful mysteries of life.

Tucker and Brownstein started playing in Olympia, Washington in the wake of the media circus over "riot grrl" bands like Bikini Kill in the early nineties and cut one single before deciding, after watching a television show about kangaroos, to travel to Australia. By that point they were, in Tucker's words, "really good friends" (if you catch her drift – they split, romantically, but stayed together, musically, a year or two later) and contacted everyone from Australia who had sent them fan mail in preparation for the trip. One guy, named Ian, put them on to a woman called Lora Macfarlane, who ran a zine with him and played the drums, and who joined the band for their first two albums, Sleater-Kinney and Call The Doctor, before returning to Melbourne and founding her own band, ninetynine. After Macfarlane's departure, Tucker and Brownstein found Janet Weiss, who would become their more permanent third member, and signed to the young indie label Kill Rock Stars. They ditched most, but not all, of the politics for their subsequent record, Dig Me Out, to focus instead on the idea that playing music was worth being alive for: "Take take the noise in my head/ C'mon and turn turn it up/ I wanna turn turn you on!"

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