Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Good-bye small hands, good-bye small heart

#16 Sleater-Kinney, The Hot Rock (Kill Rock Stars, 1999)

If we are now supposed to speak about the late Sleater-Kinney in the hushed, reverent tones reserved for ‘classic’ bands, The Hot Rock might not be the best album to bring into the conversation. It doesn’t have the Rock And/Or Roll Hall Of Fame vibe to it – it is not characterized the brassy, catchy punk of the earlier records, nor the arena-filling classic rock vibe of their last two. Even more, unlike other of their albums, the Hot Rock does not take on wide-reaching social statements such as GWB and war or fake feminists or consumerism. Rather, the dramas here are more personal, and every bit (and more) intense. Don’t get me wrong, everything S-K has put out has been excellent, but the Hot Rock is the album of theirs that best creates its own world. The songs are intimate, introspective, and unpredictable and best played on headphones late at night. It’s definitely not a laid-back folky strummer – they bring the loud, too, though the melodic anthemic bits (and there are several) appear at not always obvious junctures. This is not really a singles-type record, but standouts include the always cathartic, “Memorize Your Lines,” and possibly my favorite (if one of their least characteristic) S-K track, “Get Up.”

I’ll keep this one short in order to avoid falling behind with the countdown, but as a passing note, I want to note that the Hot Rock has the best album cover in my top 25. It’s a simple candid shot, but I feel like it perfectly captures my image of the band – effortlessly cool, purposeful, even aloof. Makes me want to live in Portland.

p.s. this is the second selection in my top 25 that includes a song about divine numerology (here, “God is a Number”). A third one might mean something.


Big Cougar said...

This was my first SK record and has my favorite SK song ("The End of You")so it has a special place in my heart. I will say that, knowing the personal SK member drama behind this album, the cover takes on a purposeful tone, especailly since Carrie is clearly supposed to be showing off her ring (also found on the back cover), something that Corin is clearly annoyed by and that Janet is completely disinterested in. Of course, if I have my SK love triangle history right, it was actually Carrie that was frustrated at Corin's ring, a symbol of her "switching teams" so to speak. At any rate, it's a loaded cover for a kick ass record.

Sean B said...

I was only vaguely aware of that SK drama -- thanks. It certainly makes the record (and cover) that much more compelling.