Sleater-Kinney – All Hands On the Bad One

Sleater-Kinney
All Hands On the Bad One

If you don’t who Sleater-Kinney is by now, you probably live under a rock (this is something you might want to check on). These three ladies have received praise not only from mainstream rock critics (Spin, Rolling Stone) but from nearly the entire underground community. They’ve been one of the first riot grrrl groups to successfully convey that scene’s spirit without tone-deaf screeching. S-K don’t take crap from anyone, but they’re still nice enough to write an actual song. In an age where female artists like Tori Amos and Gwen Stefani struggle very righteously to be seen as “artists” and not “female artists,” S-K stand out as three girls who not only show their femininity but embrace it. That being said, “All Hands On the Bad One” rocks as hard as any album I’ve heard recently.

The first track opens like a critic’s dream: it’s filled with plenty of lyrics that, when taken out of their original context, could be used as a clever way to somehow sum up the entire album. Because I’m a big fan of both S-K AND stereotypes, I’m going to take full advantage of those lyrics. The song is titled “Ballad of a Ladyman,” a cute little stomp through Corin Tucker’s desires to be an *ahem* tomboy. Lyrics like “they say I’ve gone too far with the image I’ve got” hint at these girls’ constant struggle not to be too girly (to put it very poetically). However, lines like “But I gotta rock! I’d rather be a Ladyman” find the girls still attached to their rocking roots. In an apparent attempt to make my job easier, these Olympia, Wash. girls also sum up the basic sound of the album on the first track. The track starts off kind of sweet, reminiscent of 1999’s “The Hot Rock” before Corin Tucker’s unmistakable croon reaches that breaking point that was magnified on 1996’s “Dig Me Out.” All Hands is a rather tidy summation of S-K’s two prior albums.

Songs like “Was It a Lie” and “Leave You Behind” are as sweet and pretty as anything on The Hot Rock. The intertwining vocal patterns will leave you speechless, and the lyrics glowingly recall past nights and loves. Other songs, however, hearken back a bit further to Dig Me Out, a decidedly angrier album. “Youth Decay” and “Male Model” rock harder, and they have a more political agenda (albeit a passive one) than anything on The Hot Rock. Lyrics such as, “Daddy said I got my mama’s mouth/I’m all about/a forked tongue and a dirty house” seem to hint at something more than three girls getting their rock on.

The best songs on the album break some new ground for the group. “You’re No Rock n’ Roll Fun” could not only be a mantra for this group, but it reminds one more of a melody The Who would write than anything out of the mouth of one of Washington’s grrrls. “Milkshake n’ Honey” (See a trend here? All their best songs have a “n'” in the middle of the title. Ha! I’m on to you S-K!) finds Corin Tucker fantasizing about another girl while her group trots along behind her with stronger melodies than a punk group should be able to write. Even the title track and its shout-along chorus sounds unique.

If you’ve never heard S-K before, I have two things to say. First off, you suck really bad. Second, this is probably a really good place to start. This album encompasses the best of this group’s two prior albums. In fact, I don’t really feel too off the mark in saying that this is the best album they’ve released yet. If this album doesn’t end up on my end of the year list, we’ve got an extremely exciting musical year ahead of us. It’s that good.