A girl's best friend is her guitar
The turn-of-the-‘90s rock underground underwent an intense and desperately overdue conversation about the paucity of women on that scene, and the not-so-hot treatment of those who were there. Despite the inarguably crucial contributions of Siouxsie, Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Exene Cervenka, the Slits, Lydia Lunch, Kim Gordon, and on and on and on, that scene was still largely the tribal domain of amped-up dudebros and snobby, kissless record collector boys, so women in bands got catcalled, and women who dared to brave the mosh pits were typically “rewarded” by being groped or worse.
Of course, the obvious rejoinder to the complaint that there weren’t enough women on the scene was “so start a band.” And holy shit, did young women ever do so in droves. The early ‘90s saw an explosion in female-led, female-dominated, and entirely female bands, most notably in the Riot Grrrl movement, which grafted then-nascent third wave feminism and queer theory onto punk’s who-needs-virtuosity ethos, resulting in some of the era’s most politically charged and musically potent rock. That outburst had a bland mainstream counterpart in the whole Lilith Fair trip, but Joan Osborne and her fake-ass nose ring never delivered anything like the visceral and cerebral thrills of Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and the Riot Grrrl band that found the widest audience, Sleater-Kinney.
Sleater-Kinney was formed in Olympia, WA by Corin Tucker of the ur-Riot Grrrl band Heavens to Betsey, and Excuse 17 guitarist Carrie Brownstein, now surely much better known for IFC’s hipster-poking sketch comedy series Portlandia. Their first three albums made them critical darlings, but 1997’s Dig Me Out is an undisputed classic, and was their first with drummer Janet Weiss, of the excellent and still active band Quasi. Four more albums followed, all of high quality—for what it’s worth, I’m most partial to One Beat—and in 2001, no less a monster of crit than Greil Marcus called S-K “America’s best rock band” in Time Magazine. Sleater-Kinney went on “indefinite hiatus” in 2006. Two and a half years ago, Brownstein told DIY Mag that Sleater-Kinney would play together again, but that again was two and a half years ago. In the meantime, the band’s members have played in Wild Flag and the Corin Tucker Band.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sleater-Kinney’s formation, Sub-Pop is releasing a posh, limited box set called Start Together, containing all seven Sleater-Kinney LPs on colored vinyl (they’ll also be available separately on CD and plain old unspectacular non-showoffy puritanical black vinyl). Unfortunately there’s no rarities disc, but the set will come with a hardcover book containing scads of never before seen photos culled from the band members’ personal archives. Dangerous Minds was given a few of them to share with you.
Here’s something not enough people have seen—it’s Sleater-Kinney’s segment in Justin Mitchell’s 2001 documentary on D.I.Y. bands Songs For Cassavetes. The footage was shot in the Dig Me Out era, and includes live performances of the songs “Words & Guitar” and “Stay Where You Are,” plus some terrific interview footage.