You go “grrls”: Sleater-Kinney lives up to hype by Brett Milano
Thursday, June 3, 1999
Sleater-Kinney and Mary Timony at the Middle East, Tuesday night.
If you spend a lot of time reading the rock press, you’re probably sick of hearing that Sleater-Kinney, a Northwest trio that grew out of the overhyped riot-grrl movement, is the next big thing.
After all, if they record for a small label, aren’t on the radio and don’t fill stadiums, how good can they be? As the band demonstrated before a packed house at the Middle East this week, the answer is: very good, indeed. Watching Sleater-Kinney on Tuesday, one got the same buzz that came from seeing seminal bands such as Husker Du or X in the ’80s. Like those folks, Sleater-Kinney isn’t reinventing the wheel:It just plays punk-inspired guitar rock with a few extra shots of smarts and passion. In Sleater-Kinney’s case, the mix includes an original guitar sound – there’s no bass, so guitarists Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker wind jumpy, rhythmic lead parts around each other. And there’s a powerful singer in Tucker, who knows how to use her whisper-to-scream range for dramatic effect.
This week’s show had been rescheduled from late March because of Brownstein’s back injury, and the Middle East’s air conditioning apparently stopped working for the occasion. Perhaps for that reason, the band was a little subdued: A couple of barnstormers (such as the fannish rock anthem, “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone”) weren’t played and there was more space for the gentler tunes from its last two albums. Most grabbing was the encore ballad, “Buy Her Candy” (the lyric celebrates a crush between women, but Tucker’s vocal and the gorgeous tune made the feelings universal).
Nor was the set lacking in cheap thrills as the closing rocker, “Dig Me Out,” found Brownstein doing Pete Townshend-style leaps and arm swings.The next big thing? As far as this crowd was concerned, Sleater-Kinney is already there.It was a no-bass kind of night, as Helium’s singer/guitarist Mary Timony (whose regular band is in limbo) played an adventurous opening set, backed only by drummer/keyboardist Christina Files.
Playing mostly new material, Timony covered the same ground Helium has—a bit of snarling pop, a bit of fantasy-driven art-rock—but went further into the abstract, laying down her guitar at mid-set to play synthesizer and violin. As ever, her sound was an enticing light-and-dark mix that never lets you get too comfortable.
from the Boston Herald reprinted without permission.