There’s rarely been a worse time in rock to own breasts, now that the frat boy is king and “show us your tits” routinely echoes ’round gigs. It starts off ignorable, with the snigger-snigger inanity of The Bloodhound Gang album. It gets ugly at Woodstock, where [a]Korn[/a] are the hip new soundtrack to gang rape. And at Bowlie, [a]Sleater-Kinney[/a] – three women who won’t wear Hello Kitty rucksacks – are pilloried as ‘ladymen’ on the noticeboard. At [I]Bowlie[/I]. What’s the world coming to?
, they taunt, at once satirising their dour image, the inability of serious boy artists to loosen up, [I]and[/I] unleashing a great pop single into the fray. It’s not the sound of doughty harridans shrieking patriarchy down, as their detractors would tediously have it. It’s a punk rock band having the time of their lives. It’s victory through joy and cranked-up amps.
[a]Sleater-Kinney[/a]’s collective arsenal remains stocked with the same flints as their past four salvoes against a flaccid, hateful rock culture. There’s words and guitar. But this backlash to the New Boorishness has a novel cunning behind it; a laser-guided wit and melodic charge.
So while the two-minute punk tsunamis get more pointed – ‘Ironclad’ and ‘The Professional’ going hell-for-noo-wave-leather – songs like ‘Ballad Of A Ladyman’ (inspired by the Bowlie incident) linger and cajole. Corin‘s voice, too, has taken on ancillary powers: a spell in side-project Cadallaca has freed up new roles for her tonsils. So she’s Siouxsie on ‘Youth Decay’, a sassy Francophile lover on ‘Milkshake n’ Honey’ and all West Coast beach babe on the immensely pretty ‘Leave You Behind’. It’s girl-positive stuff, yes; with songs like ‘Male Model’, ‘#1 Must-Have’ and ‘…Ladyman’ tackling treacherous gender gaps and rock double-standards (“I’ve been crawling up so long on your stairway to heaven/And now I no longer believe that I wanna get in”, warbles Corin). But ‘All Hands On The Bad One’ is rock’n’roll fun; its urgent rhythms and stealthy tunes laying glittery tripwire around the enemy camp.
Hooray, then, for boobies.