This is kind of a critical point in the Sleater-Kinney discography, because it’s going to go a long way towards establishing which album was the aberration. Option 1 is that The Hot Rock is the wayward, transitional aberration and that they’d found a new style by the time they got to All Hands On The Bad One. Option 2 is that, no, in fact the band just does plain suck after their masterpiece Dig Me Out and All Hands On The Bad One was the blind, shitty squirrel finding a nut.
I’m happy to report we’re very much in the option 1 camp here as the band continues with their, as I inartfully put it in my last review of one of their albums, mature punk thing. Nine of the 12 tracks get a like rating, and the band’s left behind the personal angst themes of past albums, moving on to more worldly content. The terrorist attacks of 2011 are addressed on “Far Away” (told from a West Coast perspective, so it reaches me, as I was in Portland for the attacks). In “Combat Rock,” they perfectly capture how the Right used the chanting of “Support Our Troops” to make any anti-war message seem anti-troop, and this is particularly notable since this was released in August 2002, nine months before the start of the Iraq War and a time when it was very hard to speak out against the Bush Administration and any action they might take in the region.
In the last review I said they lean on one technique too much, and they do that here, though the technique is different: here it’s yelpy vocals that swallow themselves at the end of each syllable. “Oh!,” “Combat Rock,” and “O2” are the worst violators here, but the mixed-too-high caterwaul of the background vocals in “Sympathy” are notably bad, too.
Best songs might be “Far Away,” “The Remainder,” or “Light Rail Coyote,” but no matter, it’s a solid, precise delivery, pretty much start to finish.
Like: “Far Away,” “Oh!,” “The Remainder,” “Light Rail Coyote,” “Step Aside,” “Combat Rock,” “O2,” “Funeral Song,” “Sympathy”
Meh: “One Beat,” “Prisstina,” “Hollywood Ending”
Song Notes: After the jump
- One Beat –
- Far Away – The 9/11 song.
- Oh! – theremin! these choruses are best part of album. verses i hate hate hate.
- The Remainder –
- Light Rail Coyote –
- Step Aside –
- Combat Rock – This message is pretty bold (and dead on) for 2002.
- O2 –
- Funeral Song – more theremin!
- Prisstina – lyrically full of tropes. they keep it from being like.
- Hollywood Ending –
- Sympathy –