I’ve had a few Sleater-Kinney songs in heavy rotation on my iPod for years: Every time I go to karaoke (which is a lot), I’m bummed that I can’t sing “You’re No Rock ‘n’ Roll Fun,” which should really be mainstream enough for such treatment. But alas, those lists where great pop songs go to die/live forever are apparently no place for such punk spirit. Just one more way these ladies don’t get their due — you can get every Green Day and Sum 41 and even Sex Pistols song you could possibly want to croon along with. But it’s also just one more way these ladies get to retain their sense of infinite cool.
I will admit to my own mainstream, semi-uncool reasons for having recently gorged on Sleater-Kinney downloads on iTunes. Mainly, the IFC comedy sensation Portlandia ignited my intense girl crushery for Carrie Brownstein — I haven’t wanted to copy everything a pop star wears/does/thinks so badly since I plastered my walls with Debbie Gibson posters. From there, I got into her current band, Wild Flag, which is, obviously, awesome. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Brownstein work a stage with her guitar. And now I’m mainlining old Sleater-Kinney.
For the uninitiated, Sleater-Kinney came out of the Pacific Northwest’s intersection of grunge and riot-grrl movements, combining the best elements to produce the kind of polished pop-punk the best of the ’90s and aughts bands brought us. In this case, the pop punk just happened to come from three chicks: Brownstein, Corin Tucker, and Janet Weiss. Their lyrics were as cleverly post-modern as Nirvana’s, maybe even more self-aware: “So you want to be entertained?/Please look away/We’re not here ’cause we want to entertain/Please go away/Don’t go away.” And they did meta as well as, if not as often and self-consciously as, Fall Out Boy. From “Turn It On”: “Don’t say the word if you don’t want it done/Don’t tell me your name if you don’t want it sung.”
While they certainly address female-oriented issues sometimes — the infectious “One More Hour” pines for a lesbian relationship without making a spectacle of it — their revolutionary quality came mostly from showing girls could play with the big boys without compromising their feminism or femininity. Any girl listening to any Sleater-Kinney today would come away with one message: We are as capable of shredding and wailing as any dude currently blowing out the speakers in his parents’ garage.