Sleater-Kinney: “You’re No Rock N’ Roll Fun”
One of my favorite moments on the drive from Seattle south down I-5 to Portland, OR, is passing the sign near Olympia for Exit 108, “Sleater-Kinney Rd.” Having been a fan of Sleater-Kinney, the band, before ever knowing where the name came from, it always feels just a little like the people of Olympia were such big fans of the band that they decided to name a road after them and put a really big sign up on the highway to commemorate it. I mean, how cool would a community be for doing that? I’d want to live there, no problem. But of course, it’s the other way around: road first, band second — but seeing the sign is still a fun moment on an otherwise pretty nondescript drive.
Even if Sleater-Kinney wasn’t being commemorated in Olympia, they deserve to be here. And although Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney was the subject of the first post I made here at Reselect, it’s only now that I’m getting around to featuring Sleater-Kinney proper. And it’s about time, really. After all, they’re one of the great bands of the past 20 years, regardless of gender. They pushed the indie-rock envelope with their Television- and Sonic Youth-influenced brand of post-punk, which featured great guitar and rhythm section interplay as well as the shared lead vocals of Tucker and Carrie Brownstein — one (Corin) often higher pitched, sometimes screechy (in a good way), sometimes a throatier wail, and the other (Carrie) deeper toned and earthy. Meanwhile, drummer Janet Weiss is one of the coolest women in rock. She just is . . . trust me on this one.
Sleater-Kinney released their fifth album, All Hands on the Bad One, in 2000. It was yet another in their line of consistently great albums, and a logical progression from the previous ones. Their sound by this time had become a bit more sophisticated, without losing its edge — I would say that they were a more mature band by this point, in as good a way as one might hope from a previously more punkish band. Their music maintained its energy and angularity, their voices had become stronger, and their skills as musicians had grown exponentially.
My favorite song on the album is “You’re No Rock N’ Roll Fun.” A song poking fun at too-cool musicians who have forgotten that music is supposed to be fun, it wastes no time getting to the title lyrics:
You’re no rock n’ roll fun
Like a piece of art that no one can touch
Your head is always up in the clouds
Writing your songs
Won’t you ever come down?
It moves forward briskly, showing off remarkable guitar dexterity, along with typically solid drumming from Weiss. One of the coolest things about the song is that despite the spare nature of the instrumentation, they throw in moments of beautiful three-part harmony that suddenly smooth everything out and stop the song dead in its tracks before kicking back in with the guitars. Title notwithstanding, those sections of harmony are indeed great moments of rock ‘n’ roll fun.