Many Americans are disgusted by the U.S. government's response to last year's terrorist attacks, but you wouldn't know that from most of the music released since then. On their fierce new album, One Beat (Kill Rock Stars), Portland's Sleater-Kinney step up and tackle the issue with an approach that's neither didactic pronouncement nor self-absorbed reaction. Corin Tucker's personal memories on "Far Away" aren't particularly profound. But when she sings, "7:30 AM, nurse the baby on the couch / Then the phone rings / 'Turn on the TV,'" she captures the exact moment that a normal day was plunged into frightening confusion. And on "Combat Rock" the band bravely risks sloganeering, responding to Bush's black-and-white worldview with lines like "Since when is skepticism un-American?" and "If you hate this time / Remember we are the time!" As bleak as this might seem, Sleater-Kinney transform their indignation into what Tucker calls "a flash of clean light hope" on the title track, and on the Motown-influenced "Step Aside" the trio makes protesting sound as much fun as dancing, with Tucker asking, a la Martha Reeves, "Knife through the heart of our exploitation / Ladies, one time, can you feel it?" References to classic 60s rock abound, from the Standells wink "Oh dirty river, come let me in" on "Light-Rail Coyote," the band's love letter to their hometown, to the Stonesy "ooh oohs" guitarist Carrie Brownstein adds to the album's closer, "Sympathy." The scope of Sleater-Kinney's words and music has grown--and their wider vision of the world is at least as compelling as their take on the riot grrl microcosm. The first of these two shows is sold-out. Thursday and Friday, October 10 and 11, 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Clark.