They were your Joey Ramone
January 28, 2013 7:43 AM   Subscribe

Sleater-Kinney's lastest show (The "S" is the introduction. Audio here.)

Corin Tucker was a member of the riot grrl band Heavens To Betsy (split 7" with Bratmobile, 1993/1994's Calculated, live at CBGB's). Carrie Brownstein was a member of the riot grrl band Excuse 17. (1993's self-titled album, 1995's Such Friends Are Dangerous, live at CBGB's) Both were students at Evergreen State College (ground zero for American Twee in the 1980s), and both bands played shows together. Tucker and Brownstein began dating and formed a new band named after a local road. '[N]either of them took it very seriously. "In Olympia at the time, there was a very non-monogamous musical community[.]"' For example, Tucker was also briefly part of a group called Heartless Martin with Becca Albee of Excuse 17. (1993 cassette Tonight - or is it Tonigh?)

The band recorded four tracks in 1994, though I am uncertain which of the several temporary drummers the band used was playing. Write Me Back, Fucker, Surf Song, You Ain't It, and More Than A Feeling, all released on Villa Villakula Records.

In 1995 the band went on tour with Laura Macfarlane on drums. They ended up in Australia and recorded Sleater-Kinney (Wikipedia article), which released on Chainsaw Records.

In 1996 the group recorded a second album, Call The Doctor (Wikipedia article), again on Chainsaw Records and again with Laura Macfarlane. (In 2010, Rolling Stone would call this the 49th-best album of the 1990s.) They also kept touring.

Janet Weiss was a drummer who since 1993 had been playing in the band Quasi with her ex-husband Sam Coomes. In 1996 they had released the album Early Recordings (two tracks), and in 1997 they released a second album, R&B Transmogrification. (two tracks)

While remaining in Quasi, Weiss joined SK for the recording of Dig Me Out (Wikipedia article), their 1997 debut on Kill Rock Stars, and became a permanent member of the band. (Someone who is more of a fan of Quasi might want to give them their own post...)

Dig Me Out brought SK to a wider audience than before, and also received marked critical acclaim. In December, Rolling Stone considered it the fifth best album released that year. It has subsequently been placed on a variety of semi-arbitrary critics' lists: In 2005, Spin ranked it as the 74th best album between 1985 and 2005 based on a readers' poll. In 2008, Rolling Stone called the title track the the 44th greatest guitar song of all time. In 2011, Pitchfork called it the 83rd best song of the 1990s. (Random album trivia: the cover art is an homage to The Kink Kontroversy.)

While the band released no albums in 1998, they did release a song on the Free to Fight 7" on Candy Ass records and they played a few shows. (Rock Lobster in Olympia, One More Hour in NYC with Laura Macfarlaine back on drums, with Helium in Philly. Quasi released an album, as did Tucker in her new side project, Cadallaca. (Every track) Brownstein partnered up with Lois Maffeo to record one song as Tommy for a compilation on K Records.

In 1999, SK released The Hot Rock (Wikipedia article). It was slower than its predecessors, and seen as a change of direction. The album also had an affilated EP and a music video, directed by Miranda July. The band toured in support of the album and even discussed it briefly with Nardwuar, the human serviette. (Nardwuar previously, previouslier, more previouslier.) Quasi released another album, and Cadallaca released what has been their final EP. Brownstein and Mafeo got together with Peter Momtchiloff to record The Touch 7" as The Tentacles.

The 2000 album All Hands On The Bad One (Wikipedia article) was poppier than the other albums, and critics tried to draw a line between it and the previous disc. Arion Berger thought it was a step back, Joshua Klien a step forward, and Howard Hampton just a change in direction. Robert Christgau thought it was a step backwards, but with a shrug: "They could no more make a bad album than the Rolling Stones in 1967." (In a later interview at the New Yorker Festival -see below- Tucker would refer to this praise as "ridiculous".) Pitchfork would call it the 16th best album of 2000.

Carrie Brownstein also collaborated with Mary Timony as The Spells and recorded several songs, though they would go unreleased until 2008.

In 2001, the September 11 attacks happened, and Tucker gave birth to her son, Marshall. Also, Quasi released another album.

In 2002, SK released One Beat. (Wikipedia article). The album was more overtly politcal than past work, with songs specifically criticizing the build up to the Iraq War, and Tucker's desire to protect her son. At Pitchfork, the album won over a previously critical Rob Mitchum, and it was eventually considered 14th best album of the year. Later the website would call it the 72nd best album of the aughts. Metacritic called it the 12th best-reviewed album of 2002. Last year, Tom Breihan fondly remembered SK one-upping a Belle and Sebastian show with a live performance of the whole thing.

I have nothing exciting to say about the year 2003, except that Quasi released another album.

SK moved to Sub Pop from KRS in 2004, and began recording their next album that November. While they had worked with John Goodmanson as their produced on most of their previous work, this time they were going to work with Dave Fridmann, most famous as the producer of The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. Fridmann was not that keen on the band's old records. Quoting Brownstein, 'He was pretty critical of our old records and really reticent to say anything positive, actually, about anything we'd done - even the demos we'd sent him. The most positive thing he said before we got there was, "I'm excited to work on this record."'

In 2005, SK released The Woods (Wikipedia article). The album drew heavily from classic rock tropes such as guitar solos and large quantities of distortion, and culminated in an eleven-minute guitar jam. Three music videos were produced, and the band came as close to true mainstream success as it may have ever done. (While not the best marker of success, they did play on Letterman.) Metacritic ranked it as the 5th best reviewed album of the year, Rolling Stone called it the 12th best album of the year, and Pitchfork the 19th best. Pitchfork would eventually rank it as the 127th best album of the aughts, behind One Beat. In the wake of the album the band was interviewed by James Surowiecki at the New Yorker Festival, a ten-minute excerpt of which can be heard here.

In June of 2006, SK announced that they were going on indefinite hiatus. Before doing so they toured, including stops at Lollapalooza and Coachella.

Their final show was at the Crystal Ballroom in August, and the Thermals and Eddie Vedder opened for them. (See top of post.) Also, Quasi released another album.

Thanks to their timely break-up and the strong critical appraisal of All Hands On The Bad One, One Beat, and The Woods, Metacritic currently classifies SK as the 4th best band of the aughts. All three women have kept busy.

Tucker formed The Corin Tucker Band. They've released two albums: the underrated (my opinion) 1,000 Years, which Tucker described as a "middle-aged mom record", and Kill My Blues, which is more of a return to standard Sleater-Kinney form. You can see Sarah Lund, CTB's drummer, have a drum battle with Weiss here.

Weiss has continued to produce albums with Quasi, and joined Stephen Malkmus's band, The Jicks. (Two albums recorded so far.) She's also made a list of 10 ways to be a kick-ass drummer.

Brownstein worked for an ad agency (for which Weiss had also once worked), wrote a blog for NPR, and formed Thunderant, a comedy duo with Fred Armisen. The last of these would eventually enter the cultural mainsteam with the TV show Portlandia. (Corin made a guest appearance once.) She also teamed up with Timony, Weiss, and Rebecca Cole to form the "riot grrl supergroup" Wild Flag. They released a self-titled debut in 2011, which Pitchfork ranked as the 49th-best album of 2011.
posted by Going To Maine (38 comments total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
They played in Denver in October 2005 and had to bow out early 'cause Carrie was having some sort of weird allergic reaction. (She was amazing anyway.) They promised to play extra long at their next stop in Denver. They never returned. I miss them.
posted by mochapickle at 7:52 AM on January 28, 2013

well this is awesome.

nothing really to say except s-k was one of those bands that hit me at just the right time in adolescence and showed me music that could shimmer between sincerity and irreverence in a way I'd never experienced before, and maybe in a way that nobody else could.

and Janet Weiss is seriously one of the greatest drummers alive.

thanks for the post.
posted by One Thousand and One at 7:59 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh man, this is my favorite band. Ever.

A few shows before the one posted by OP, they played at the 9:30 Club in DC. I was lucky enough to catch it. I hung out after the show hoping they'd come back out to kibbutz with fans, and got kicked out by the dudes sweeping the floor.

I did not know the Corin Tucker Band released a second album. I will have to check that out. Wild Flag definitely won the first round between the two, but I hope that Kill My Blues is really as good as OP says.

Great post, awesome band. Thanks!
posted by Poppa Bear at 8:02 AM on January 28, 2013

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa my favourite band ever and there will never be enough time in the world to dig into all these delicious links. Thanks for a great post!

And if anyone is a fan, do check out those early albums by Heavens to Betsy and Excuse 17. They're sublime.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:06 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is awesome! (but the main page view with the little youtube arrows next to every letter totally sucks... I gotta figure out the tweaks to stop that noise.)
posted by nile_red at 8:10 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've seen SK 3.5 times. The .5 was at the Roseland in NYC. We remember the bartender saying something like "If you're good to the bartender, the bartender is good to you." as he poured our first vodka cranberries of the night. We remember dancing people getting in our line of sight, more vodka crans from the good bartender, and then waking up in our hotel room the next afternoon intact except for our ringing ears and aching heads.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:17 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Never got to see Sleater-Kinney, but I've been making up for it by seeing Wild Flag play like something 8 times.

One Beat is still one of the best records of all time and finds itself in my rotation constantly. Thanks for the awesome post!
posted by King Bee at 8:21 AM on January 28, 2013

I like Sleater-Kinney.
posted by brevator at 8:26 AM on January 28, 2013

I saw SK at the Great American Music Hall touring for DMO. What an amazing, amazing, band. I got to meet Corin and Janet; they were working their own merch table.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:27 AM on January 28, 2013

Saw Janet Weiss drum for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks a couple of times, and yes, she is awesome.
posted by Windopaene at 8:30 AM on January 28, 2013

Dig Me Out -- 16 years ago? gah
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:41 AM on January 28, 2013

Corin worked her merch table a few months ago on the Corin Tucker Band tour in support of its second album, at least its NYC stop. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to feel happy for her ("I'm having fun and I'm not too stuck up to sell t-shirts at a $15 markup") or sad for her ("I fronted what many people though was the best band in the world, and here I am selling t-shirts at a $15 markup in a 300-person venue".)
posted by MattD at 8:45 AM on January 28, 2013

I think I listened to One Beat all the way through every day for a full year.
As I write this I am listening to Step Aside and what strikes me most is the inherent sense of ecstasy about it, like the most ecstatic thing imaginable is a revolutionary call to arms.
Great post and thank you for this.
And, who the heck is Janet Carrie?
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 8:54 AM on January 28, 2013

Awesome post! S-K has been one of my favorite bands for years and years. I drove 3 hours each way to catch every show of theirs in Massachusetts when I was in college ('98-'01), they were always amazing live.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:25 AM on January 28, 2013

Cool, I hadn't known the Corin Tucker band had released a second. I agree the first was under-rated.
posted by angrycat at 9:31 AM on January 28, 2013

Dude, I have work to do today.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:38 AM on January 28, 2013

Just talking the other day on fb about how S-K rocked.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:41 AM on January 28, 2013

The Woods is so goods.
posted by blue t-shirt at 9:57 AM on January 28, 2013

I'm just going to go out on a limb and guess that you don't have the "Youtube inline videos" option checked in your profile.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:10 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

No love for The Friends of Rachel Worth?
posted by rodii at 11:29 AM on January 28, 2013

This post is like a whole bucket of stars, dumped into the universe.
posted by mayurasana at 12:28 PM on January 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Awesome! I discovered them late in their career, never got to see them.

I cry every time I listen to Sympathy.
posted by Gorgik at 12:36 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's weird; I've worked for Evergreen for several months, and I've lived in Olympia for 10 years, and I've never listened to much Sleater Kinney. In my mind it's just the name of the street of strip malls, with the Target, Office Depot, Value Village (thrift store), and Fred Meyer Superstore. (That's SK Southeast, SK Northeast is more rural.) Thanks for the HUGE overview so I can correct that.
posted by epersonae at 12:43 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Both Corin Tucker Band releases are great. I don't want to belittle the other two contributors, but it was always pretty clear to me at least that Corin was the heart and soul of SK.

(The end of that show is great.)

Dig Me Out, One Beat, The Woods, The Hot Rock? Sure. But, Call the Doctor. That is the shit.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:54 PM on January 28, 2013

Fantastic post, and great first post! I almost missed all the goodness inside, though, for thinking there was only more details on their last show below the fold.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2013

S-K was a fine example of a band whose genre I was totally not into, and I still enjoyed them fiercely anyway.
posted by Foosnark at 3:04 PM on January 28, 2013

What an amazing post!

Never got to see Sleater-Kinney, but I've been making up for it by seeing Wild Flag play like something 8 times.

I'm in the same boat. Never had an opportunity to see Sleater-Kinney live, and I believe the only time they toured around where I lived was just as support for Pearl Jam in the early 2000's. Plus I was part of the younger generation of SK fans. While I might have regretted not seeing them play live, going to see Wild Flag was great because it bridged a gap between older and younger fans.
posted by _superconductor at 3:20 PM on January 28, 2013

When I married my husband, we wrote our own vows; in mine, I promised to be his Joey Ramone. SK4EVA
posted by KathrynT at 10:33 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my mind it's just the name of the street of strip malls, with the Target, Office Depot, Value Village (thrift store), and Fred Meyer Superstore. (That's SK Southeast, SK Northeast is more rural.)

Sleater-Kinney NE has my high school on it.
posted by emmling at 5:14 AM on January 29, 2013

I recently had the strangely appalling experience of seeing some tween star sing You're No Rock N Roll Fun on "The Good Wife" [season 2] and it was so disturbing I had to turn it off. When I finally turned it on again, she was claiming to have written it, which I found far more disturbing. I may have thrown things and made unintelligible sounds; I know I send off some outrage venting emails.
Now, I know how this works and it hasn't bugged me in a long time, but rarely does television mine songs that actually mean something to me and I have never heard of someone publicly taking credit for it. It wasn't part of the plot or anything. All I could think was that hopefully they made a ridiculous amount of money off of it or maybe there was some insider back story I was unaware of-- even recalling it, I'm still horrified.
posted by provoliminal at 9:52 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recently had the strangely appalling experience of seeing some tween star sing You're No Rock N Roll Fun on "The Good Wife" [season 2] and it was so disturbing I had to turn it off.

Gah, I knew there was a reason I hated that show (aside from the fact my mother-in-law likes it). That Dead Poets Guy is sooo smarmy too.

IMDB soundtrack page for that episode says:
"You're No Rock 'n' Roll Fun"
(uncredited) Sung by Miranda Cosgrove
Indeed. Here it is. I would guess whomever owns the rights sold it uncredited? Weird.

posted by mrgrimm at 12:35 PM on January 29, 2013

I would think KRS owns the rights? Perhaps they did not want SK affiliated with it? Not sure why, though.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:46 PM on January 29, 2013

Ok I have to stand up for The Good Wife here because it's an awesome show and whoever the music supervisor is does an amazing job because scenes like this introduced me to songs like this and even rapping chickens like this. Seriously the music on the show is one of its best parts and them using one of your favourite songs should give you a happy not a sad!
posted by yellowbinder at 9:29 AM on January 30, 2013

Sleater-Kinney NE has my high school on it. East Olympia/Lacey represent!
posted by epersonae at 4:45 PM on January 30, 2013

This is a great post. Thanks for putting it together! I went to Evergreen while they were still in town. Little path crossings here and there. They were always one of my favorite bands to see live and then when I moved to Seattle this was also true. And then when I moved to Chicago and then again to New York they would come to town and always rock. Always at the top of their game. No matter what city or venue I saw them in they were impressive in that context.

Each new record revealed something. I thought the Woods was an amazing end to a great run even though part of me wishes they would've stayed together. But we get Wild Flag and the CTB while they get to grow / do the thing they needed to do so things aren't so grim.

Speaking of Wild Flag, I have the Spells EP from 1999 that was made and once WF was announced I was like OF COURSE.

Now I've got to go listen to Dig Me Out, One Beat, and The Woods.
posted by safetyfork at 7:50 PM on January 30, 2013

Seriously the music on the show is one of its best parts

We will have to agree to disagree, or that endorsement means something different to you than it does to me. I also did not like Wild Flag (though I am wild about CTB). I feel like Calvin pissing on a Chevy logo.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:42 PM on January 30, 2013

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