By rights I should be in Manchester tonight, watching Sleater-Kinney play the Academy, seeing one of my favourite bands live for the first time in over a decade. But, alas, having small children has made midweek gigs in other cities pretty much a thing of the past (and maybe the future – just not the right now).
I’ll console myself by telling myself it won’t be the same without Janet Weiss (perhaps my favourite drummer of all time), who left the band last year, even if I don’t really believe it. Also, by putting together a playlist of the best (or at least my favourite) Sleater-Kinney songs (which could have been nearly every single one, although I tried to restrict myself to no more than half a dozen per album) and writing about a few of those that mean the most to me.
Lora’s Song (1995)
It’s fair to say that Laura Macfarlane, drummer on their first two albums, is Sleater-Kinney’s least heralded member. It always felt a little patronising that the one Sleater-Kinney song for which she sang lead vocals was titled ‘Lora’s Song’, as if to say she would only ever be allowed one. I’ve always been quite fond of it, personally. It may be a slightly odd fit on the album, but a great song on its own merits.
One More Hour (1997)
I fell in love with Sleater-Kinney before even hearing them, purely based on a live review in the NME. I somehow knew they would be the band for me, and the first album of theirs I heard (Dig Me Out), proved me absolutely right. Nearly every track was a winner, but One More Hour remains my favourite, a beautiful, yearning lament to the break-up of Carrie and Corin, the co-vocalists, co-guitarists and co-songwriters of the group.
Get Up (1999)
By 1999 I was desperate for new Sleater-Kinney material, and was delighted to find a promo copy of their new single Get Up in Vinyl Exchange in Manchester. This, of course, being a time when I couldn’t just listen on demand to anything I liked. At the time I felt the inevitable minor disappointment that comes with the follow-up to a much loved album. In retrospect though, it stands up with anything else in their catalogue, jittery and tense, yet somehow still ecstatic.
Leave You Behind (2000)
A song it took me a while to get, but now probably my favourite of all Sleater-Kinney songs. It’s languid, almost doo-wop style vocals, combined with thosheartbreaking lyrics makes for a near-perfect song.
The Swimmer (2000)
A song I think about often, especially since I started to teach my children to swim, which is one of my favourite things to do, as I wrote about a couple of years ago.
Far Away (2002)
George W Bush and 9/11 bought about Sleater-Kinney’s most overtly political album yet, One Beat. Numerous great songs as always, but Far Away, in particular, has such vivid intensity and energy that nearly two decades on, it still transports me back to that time.
Modern Girl (2005)
2005’s The Woods marked a new direction for Sleater-Kinney, by far the heaviest record they released, showcasing all three members of the bands’ stunning technical abilities. Despite, or perhaps because of, this, the song that stands out from the record, is the relatively simple, melodic ‘Modern Girl’, the Sleater-Kinney song that pops unbidden into my head most often. A great album, and a fitting end to Sleater-Kinney’s career…
Bury Our Friends (2014)
…except of course it wasn’t as they returned after a 9 year hiatus with one of the best songs of 2014, or indeed any other year. Most of the time, when one of my favourite bands reforms, the new material doesn’t turn out so great, but Bury Our Friends stands with anything in the Sleater-Kinney catalogue. The album, No Cities To Love, which followed early the next year also did not disappoint.
Last year’s album The Center Won’t Hold divided opinion, it’s fair to say, and led to the departure of drummer Janet Weiss from the band. The band worked with St Vincent, and moved in a slightly poppier, more electronic direction. Whilst it isn’t my absolute favourite album of theirs, it still beats most albums released that year, and I love that they are doing new things 25 years into their history. The synth-pop styled Love is different from anything they have done before, and also fantastic. Long may they continue.