Today, folks, is a mighty fine day indeed: riot grrrl heroes Sleater-Kinney have returned. The punk-trio will release their first studio album in 10 years next year, with ‘No Cities To Love’ set to arrive in January 2015. Even better: they’ll also be heading out on the road for a series of live shows including a spate of UK shows. If you’ve never seen them live before, then this is your chance. Don’t miss it.
What with Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss also releasing their career-spanning ‘Start Together’ boxset, which brings together all seven of their previous studio albums, it’s a pretty special time for any Sleater-Kinney die-hards. But fear not, non-converts: last week, NME asked famous artists and notable fans of the band including REM’s Peter Buck, Spoon’s Britt Daniel, Eleanor Friedberger and Sky Larkin’s Katie Harkin to explain why Sleater-Kinney are worth getting excited about. You can read their arguments below, and also watch the video for the album’s new single, ‘Bury Our Friends’.
Peter Buck, REM
“I saw around 10 shows including the last one, and each time was more of a celebration. The first one stands out because it was shocking and exciting and moving to see a young band that’s really pushing the boundaries. There was the whole scene from Olympia, with Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, but Sleater-Kinney stood out for their sense of focus. They had something to say. Honestly, that was the last time that I personally saw a movement occur. There have been great bands and great things since, but never something that swept through and changed your perception of what rock’n’roll could be. Those guys did it.
“Were they kindred spirits to REM? Absolutely. They were politically oriented without being real preachy. They weren’t going to get really famous and do a lot of cocaine. They were noisy, uncommercial, wilful – you didn’t get the feeling they were just waiting for their big hits. They had goals that had nothing really to do with mainstream popularity. At the final show, you got the feeling that they were at the peak of their powers. I wasn’t really sure why they were going away. They really had a lot to say about their time and their place, and I don’t think that time and place has gone.”
Eleanor Friedberger, Fiery Furnaces
“I remember being 19 and in college, and my boyfriend at the time [Spoon frontman Britt Daniel] had bought their record – this was 1996, 1997. He was really into it, but I was into 1960s, ’70s male rock music – I wasn’t that interested in other women in bands. I don’t know why. So I just dismissed it, I wasn’t that interested until I finally saw them.
“Their energy onstage was exciting, though it’s not just about their energy at all – they’re incredibly skilled. Janet is such a good drummer, I could watch her all day. Carrie was always really tough onstage, like a little Pete Townshend, windmilling and being really aggressive. Corin has this incredibly powerful voice and she always looked very feminine, very powerful. The Fiery Furnaces got to play one of our first shows with them in Brooklyn, right before our first record came out. It was a love-fest: we were just starting out, so it was very exciting to be swept up in that.”
Britt Daniel, Spoon
“When ‘Dig Me Out’ came out, there was this very impressive underground word-of-mouth about them. I loved their name, so I got the record. I knew that they were true-blue punk rockers. They were legit – anything from Olympia was pretty hardcore. They were a force to be reckoned with. And that record is a classic. I remember Spoon was working on our second album right then, and I was very taken by how Sleater-Kinney’s guitar parts weren’t really typical rhythm guitar parts, but they weren’t full chords. They were always playing lead lines that intertwined, which we ripped off on ‘Metal School’. Everything about them was firing on all cylinders. They were three women who were doing it all by themselves and doing it at that level, you know.”
Katie Harkin, Sky Larkin
“As an aspiring teenage guitarist in the early 2000s, nu-metal and bloated Britpop left me cold. Sleater-Kinney were a beacon of ferocious possibility. I first went to see them play on my own in Leeds, and that night forged friendships that endure to this day. I navigated daunting early days at university and nervous early gigs as a performer by befriending those in ‘Sleater-Kinney Is For Lovers’ T-shirts and badges. As musicians they had an astute dexterity that was still raw punk, and as songwriters they were both emotionally accessible and unfuckwithable. When offered the chance to travel to the States to make records with Sky Larkin, John Goodmanson’s name was at the top of our list because of his work with them. I only discovered them near the end of their career, and on working through their records I found their development astonishing: muscular growth spurts, going from strength to strength with each record, rather than settling into a mollifying kind of maturity as the years went by.”
Gareth Paisey, Los Campesinos!
“There’s a particular strain of young man that still struggles with the notion of women playing their instruments with a greater level of expertise than their male counterparts. I always fear I could have slipped into a similar regressive mindset had I not been educated by a riot grrrl subsect of AOL’s music chat rooms in the early ’00s. It’s hard to stop guitar solos from being tedious, but Carrie and Corin put an emotion into their instruments that I’ve never heard so emphatically anywhere since. Sleater-Kinney are a band with the rare legacy of having never taken a misstep, always pushing themselves, and always coming up with something new and vital as a result.”