I have so many feelings about riot grrrl, the third wave feminist music movement of the '90s that taught me about rad women in punk and the DIY power of young ladies at large BUT I can not, and won't, get into all those feelings here because I have a character limit. At least, I think I have a character limit. For now, let's talk about Sleater-Kinney, the riot grrrl staple and bad-ass rock band.
Sleater-Kinney was formed in Olympia, Washington by musicians Corin Tucker (of the other Washington-based punk band Heavens To Betsy) and Carrie Brownstein (of Excuse 17). For those unfamiliar with SK, you might know Brownstein from the TV show Portlandia or her other insanely good band Wild Flag. She is one of the greatest guitar players of all time. God DAMN IT is there anything Carrie can't do?
Sleater-Kinney's music was loud and unabashedly political, calling out the misogyny of the music industry to the confines of gender roles. Their angry lyricism is a feminist manifesto in itself, making this music for ladies to rage to. Tucker has a particularly distinctive style of singing; it is literally a warrior-call. Her shrieking, punk snarl is one of the reasons Sleater-Kinney's music is so satisfying. Because Sleater-Kinney is one of my favorite bands, picking just one album to write about is hard. Though their fifth album, All Hands On The Bad One is super good. Girl power 4-ever! [Insert Corin Tucker shriek here.]
This is one of my favorite Sleater-Kinney songs, though it's not their typical, mega-screamy sound. It's a fun song but also pretty snarky. If there's one thing you can count on with Sleater-Kinney it's brutal honesty. If you're a totally predictable buzzkill boy band who disses lady rockstars, they're going to call you out on it with insults veiled as catchy hooks in a glossed up song. And how good is "fill our Christmas socks / with whiskey drinks and chocolate bars?" Dudes, this is what your girlfriend wants for Christmas. She also wants you to shut up forever and help dismantle the patriarchy, but start off with the booze and treats.
Sleater-Kinney's "#1 Must Have" is a takedown of the hype riot grrrl was receiving from the media at the time. People were hating on SK for "selling out" and feminism had become a total commodity. "But they took our ideas to their marketing stars / and now I'm spending all my days at girlpower.com / trying to buy back a little piece of me," Tucker sings. Then the band went on this totally mainstream Oxygen talk show to perform this song
and Tucker's attitude is sooo over it all. You can see it in her performance, it's great. Of course they would pick this song to play! Such a brilliant move. Ugh, I LOVE YOU SLEATER-KINNEY.
The fast-paced, mosh-worthy "Youth Decay" is about the widespread misunderstanding of young women and disorders. It's easier to silence a chick than help her. "I'm so good at playing dead / words just don't seem to come out," Tucker snarls. Playing dead and being silenced is a common theme
in Sleater-Kinney's outspoken music. The music gets REAL.
Sleater-Kinney penned this tune which, in Tucker's words, mocks how people perceive women in rock. To some, a band with all women can't be just a rock band. It has to be a lady rock band with their own special brand of female music. It doesn't really matter though, what people think of SK, 'cause all of the members have not stopped kicking ass musically over the years and All Hands On The Bad One is a testimony to their lasting rock n' roll, feminist power. Buy this record and all of their records and just get your girlfriends together and dance wildly. —Hazel