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Dust it off / Sleater-Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One

All Hands on the Bad One, baby

Most of my records, CDs and tapes sit idly in crates and on shelves, so here's what I'm going to do: Every so often, I'm going to dust one off and see what it sounds like. Dredge the archive, and take a good long lis­ten to some­thing I haven't heard in 2+ years.

Tonight, I begin the exper­i­ment with a ran­dom­ly select­ed record: Sleater-Kinney's All Hands on the Bad One, which I'll admit I haven't lis­ten to in three years. Maybe four.

Here's the thing about Sleater-Kin­ney and me. I'm prob­a­bly one of the very few San Fran­cis­cans (of a cer­tain age and neigh­bor­hood) who *likes* them but doesn't *love* them and some­times wish­es they would cool it with the too-often shrill vocals. But of course every­one knows they're polit­i­cal­ly-active fem­i­nists who play punk rock, so what's my prob­lem?

Let's talk about Bad One. It's got great moments: the title track and "The Pro­fes­sion­al" are rockin and fun — even after five years, they're a cou­ple of the all-time great songs to lis­ten to while rid­ing a bike. The prob­lem is that, for the most part, this album is huge step away from their ear­ly, raw sound, which had a lot less Heart-esque pow­er bal­lad voice. Songs like "Milk­shake n Hon­ey," and "Bal­lad of a Lady­man" fea­ture this voice, which for me is the ele­ment of their sound that rocks the least. (It comes down to this: If Car­rie Brown­stein har­mo­nizes with Corin Tuck­er on a song, chances are that I'll like it).

I'll say some­thing nice about them: I saw them move the crowd in a seri­ous way at Dolores Park one sum­mer. Their fans were freak­ing out, and the band itself was hav­ing fun and sound­ing good — even songs I didn't like were pret­ty great. I real­ly wish their albums cap­tured this bet­ter. But like any­thing, their sound can't be all things for all peo­ple, and they seem to please some group of peo­ple every­time they put out an album, so more pow­er to them.