With the return of producer John Goodmanson from the Dig Me Out days, you'd almost expect a home coming to that edgy unpolished sound. Expect better. In fact, there are spots on this album have more raw energy than anything since Call the Doctor, but with all the maturity that the band's developed since The Hot Rock and All Hands. The sound is much richer, with many more layers than any outing before. In fact, Sleater-Kinney counterpoint begins almost to approach the majesty of a cathedral choir, backed up by its organ. The guitars develop a monolithic wall of sound that cannot be gotten around, and cannot be pierced. This album won't disappoint any Sleater-Kinney fan, no matter what era she may be partial to.
Though you can hear plenty of straight-ahead words and guitar punk rock, there's tons more. Just like everyone rock band in the world, there's a fresh element of electronica, but unlike everyone else, the instrument is a theremin, one of the very first electronic instruments, before the synthesizers now everywhere aro
und the music world. There's an element of soul, especially in the last song Sympathy, which if it weren't for Corin's distinctive voice (a familiar Olympia from the South reminiscent of a Kurt Cobain), you'd almost mistake it for a song from The Gossip.
The impact of September 11th can be obviously felt on this album. "Far Away", which from the Pacific Northwest, New York must have seemed, is an especially piercing reminder of that inexplicable sudden nausea everyone felt that day. You feel it again in the guitar, in an unfamiliar dissonance in the familiar Corin-Carrie counterpoint. Even with a new found patriotism, the classic antiauthoritarianism of punk rock can still be felt with "and the president hides / while working men rush in / to give their lives." While Dan Rather, and all the news networks forgot about the administration's cowardice immediately upon the news of the
attacks, punk rock has not. Compared with the war mongering of the President, unconstitutional detention of 'suspects' and the vote mongering in step marching by the Democrats, the patriotism that Sleater-Kinney sings, "Where is the questioning, where is the protest song / since when is skepticism un-American" in Combat Rock makes it OK to be patriotic in that gut level sense that one feels reluctant to in the face of what it has been used as an excuse for. In an act of Sheer bravado, their nationwide tour will start on September 11th.
With a sudden expansion of the scope of their politics, they don't leave out the personal. While the first two albums were unmediated screams of pain, these songs are cold, calculated revenge. These are deep wounds that have been festering, the ones that no longer occupy your every thought, but are still palpably there. With lines like "Nobody lingers like your hands on my heart / nobody figures like you've figured me out" in Oh, this is up close and personal. My favorite song on the album, though, still has to be Light Rail Coyote. The title enough says everything. It's about urban wildlife. It's about the one that doesn't fit in, but still manages to scrape together an existence. Yet there's this desperation to it, in "Find me on the eve of suicide / Tell me the city is no place to hide." This is your existence too, and mine.I can't say what this album will do as an introduction to the band--I lost that innocence when I fell in love with the band a long time ago. Still, don't miss this one.