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We Need Sleater-Kinney Now More Than Ever

L-R: Janet Weiss, Corin Tucker, and Carrie Brownstein

L-R: Janet Weiss, Corin Tucker, and Carrie Brownstein

Is the music world ready for a riot grrrl revival?

The underground, feminist, post-punk movement saw the return of rock royalty when Sleater-Kinney released their first record in a decade, No Cities to Love. Passion-charged vocals, riff-heavy guitar, bashing drums, and political lyrics gave birth to the group's eighth studio album. Corin Tucker (vocals and guitar), Carrie Brownstein (guitar and vocals), and Janet Weiss (drums) have already managed to release one of the most innovative and authentic rock records of the year.

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In their decade-long absence from playing together, they've been involved in notable side projects. Brownstein wrote and starred in Portlandia alongside Fred Armisen. She also created an indie-rock supergroup named Wild Flag with Mary Timony, Rebecca Cole, and Weiss. Weiss also played alongside Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith, Stephen Malkmus, and the Shins. Tucker formed the Corin Tucker Band and released two albums. Following Sleater-Kinney's past praise from critics, can this revival after a decade of snarling absence (especially given their independent success) live up to high expectations?

The short answer: Yes.

The left-leaning band formed in '94, just two years after third-wave feminism had become a trending topic. Today they add dialogue to a conversation that's beginning to scream for answers. There's the evaporating middle class, and the limitations of the struggle for power. With progressive women leaders like Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton and a presidential election around the corner, the emergence of Sleater-Kinney seems less sporadic and more strategic than ever. Sleater-Kinney holds a mirror up to the moment, as progressive women standing tall in the rock world.

Weiss spoke with Boston's NPR news station saying, "What has been important to us still is important to us -- the idea of equality, the idea of people feeling disenfranchised or outside, these ideas of empowerment. I think these are all the same sort of big issues we've been making records about since the beginning. If anything, it's more so."


Feeling the weight of their legacy, the trio were determined to edit No Cities to Love, to perfection, before announcing their reunion. They did just that, writing and recording in an airtight studio space, creating a sound quality that trumps their past recorded albums.

Alongside their album release, the undisputed queens of rock have also released a lyric video for "Bury Our Friends" featuring Miranda July hunched over, moving ever-so-slightly, in an ape-like mask. For their forthcoming tour, they will be joined on guitar, keyboard, and tambourine by Katie Harkin, who has played alongside Wild Beasts and led British indie-rock band Sky Larkin since 2005. 

Such developments are intriguing, but Weiss, Brownstein, and Tucker form the nucleus of something bigger than any venue, recording budget, or hiatus. Looking back to their self-titled debut album, which was recorded during an all-nighter in Australia, even an unmastered record wasn't problematic for a band like Sleater-Kinney. They scream their vital agenda.

Sleater-Kinney. Saturday, February 14, at First Avenue. Sold Out.

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