Though you might not pick this up from the raves it's drawn so far, All Hands on the Bad One (Kill Rock Stars) isn't Sleater-Kinney's best album--that honor still belongs to their 1997 breakthrough, Dig Me Out. The new one is occasionally petulant ("You're No Rock n' Roll Fun"), and some lines in "Ballad of a Ladyman" ("But I gotta rock!") and "Milkshake n' Honey" ("This music gig doesn't pay that well / But the fans are all right") stand out as weirdly self-conscious. But Sleater-Kinney own their territory now, and they've earned the right to move freely within it. Like all their records, this one deepens with every listen--emotionally, lyrically, and especially musically. Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein are still bristly and angular guitarists, but they've also begun to explore beauty for its own sake. Their melodies are sturdier than ever, and their lunging, loopy, startling singing, augmented here for the first time by the rounded voice of inventive and driving drummer Janet Weiss, is unparalleled even in Sleater-Kinney's back catalog. With a few exceptions--Swiss postpunks Liliput, the "vocal science" of British two-step garage, the most crazed doo-wop groups--nothing can match the nimble way they toss a tune back and forth or the way their stacked harmonies simultaneously sound like mountaintop shouts and lovers' murmurs. And with the exception of the artist formerly known as Prince, Brownstein dances better than any guitarist alive. This show is sold-out; labelmates the Bangs (see Spot Check) open. Friday, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. MICHAELANGELO MATOS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marina Chavez.