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Sleater-Kinney - One Beat

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Artist: Sleater-Kinney

Album: One Beat

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Review date: Sep. 23, 2002

Sleater-Kinney Goes All In

There is a certain mystique when a band creates a sixth album. That it’s even survived six is something to note. Albums like Physical Graffiti, The Preservation Green Society and Beggars Banquet [or Big Hits depending], are a testament to cohesiveness. And it's these landmarks that seem to have influenced the sixth album of one of America's greatest bands, One Beat by Sleater-Kinney.

Annabel Wright's cover art is immediately striking. Lines like "Can you invent a word for me?" also challenge your perception of the trio. And the music they've fashioned is now completely their own. There's little doubt "Oh" is one of the singles of the year; it sounds great clanging out of rust-stained '86 Rabbits. Bombastic, even. And when Tucker nails "shake him" on "Sympathy" and the "Hey" shouts pop in at the end, well, you hope it'll clang from '98 Wranglers. "The Remainder" is a heavy, deliberately passionate anthem. Led Zeppelin riffage rocks the Portland homage "Light-Rail Coyote," which is so poignantly illustrated inside the liner notes. “O2” even recalls the Alarm and other righteous rock of the 80s.

Corin Tucker has always had the most idiosyncratic voice, one that has even driven away potential fans, but now her voice is so moving, so tight, it can neither be imitated nor ignored. There's simply nothing like it in rock and roll. If male rock vocalists can be twisted, scarred and whiskey-ized to great acclaim, what is the big deal? And those fortunate to get a copy that included the free single are treated to "Lions And Tigers", which for all effects is an S-K lullaby. You can even catch the see and say playing throughout. Soft and sweet.

As you've probably read elsewhere, they also contribute "Combat Rock" and "Far Away" to the WTC dialogue. No one can accuse them of corporatizing the WTC event and the sentiments are impacting. If Alan Jackson can make it OK to not "know the difference between Iraq and Iran," SK can make it cool to lift an eyebrow. After all, artists have every right to speak their minds; especially when you have something to say. In fact, when you consider the event in hindsight, it's especially punk and hip-hop which should address what happened [whether art thou P.E.?]. Sleater-Kinney scrutinize the minutes ["Far Away"] and the resultant manipulations ["Combat Rock"], wholly devoid of pappy, drummed-up sympathy. Two songs full of tension between grief and dissension:

"And the President hides / while working men rush in / And give their lives" ["Far Away"]. "Since when is skeptisism un-American? / Dissent's not treason but they talk like it's the same" ["Combat Rock"]. "And if we let them lead us blindly / The past becomes the future once again" ["Combat Rock"].

One Beat joins the likes of Fugazi's In On the Killtaker and Bikini Kill's Reject All American for its impassioned new-world resistance, and could very well be the greatest triumph of punk independence since Black Flag. In a time of much confusion and need for discourse, Brownstein, Weiss and Tucker seized the moment.

The criticisms of this album are certainly out there ["mixed results" "awkward sequencing"]. So don't think this is a critical whitewash. But I must admit, when the drum rolls opened up on "One Beat" for the first time, I was sold on this album like a kindergartner on cotton candy.

On One Beat, Sleater-Kinney took a chance. And they stuck the landing.

"If I'm to run the future / You've got to let the old world go..." Gladly.

By David Day

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