Sleater-Kinney Explore Joy And Beauty On Upcoming LP

Punk trio touts 14 new songs as some of the most happy and heartfelt of its career.

When Sleater-Kinney singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein says that her band's upcoming

album is "kind-of scary," she is not referring to the group's reputation for blood-curdling,

punk-powered sounds.

She is referring to the newest work's tendency toward tenderness, something pretty

much absent in Sleater-Kinney's music up until now.

"It was kind-of scary at first to have songs that actually sound pretty. That is not a place

that we're very comfortable in," Brownstein, 24, said as she and her bandmates Corin

Tucker (vocals/guitar, 25) and Janet Weiss (drums, 31) prepare for an October tour of the

Midwest.

Sleater-Kinney have, by more than a few accounts, recorded some of the most

frighteningly raw sounds in all of '90s rock. In fact, the Pacific Northwest trio arguably

solidified its reputation on the title track of its album Call the Doctor (1996).

Whereas in the past Sleater-Kinney have often found their power in heart-wrenching

expressions of hurt and anger, some of their new songs sound downright happy,

Brownstein said. "Get Up," for instance, is a joyous cut that revolves around letting

oneself feel pleasure. Other songs, such as "A Quarter To Three" (not the Gary "U.S."

Bonds number), pair popish music with darker lyrics.

"A lot of the songs are celebratory," Brownstein said, "in terms of feeling a sense that you

have a spirit or singing about love from a perspective that's not about victimization or

commodification, which we have done in the past ... Maybe for the first time there are

these plateaus, where things sort-of feel OK, things feel good."

Up until now, Sleater-Kinney have found a niche in rendering impassioned, poignant

explorations of all types of relationships, from social (

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Sleater-Kinney/Call_The_Doctor.ram">"Call the

Doctor" [RealAudio excerpt]) to romantic (

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Sleater-Kinney/One_More_Hour.ram">"One More

Hour" [RealAudio excerpt]) to artistic (

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Sleater-Kinney/Words_And_Guitar.ram">"Words

and Guitar" [RealAudio excerpt]).

On the as-yet-untitled new album, due in February on the Kill Rock Stars label,

Sleater-Kinney have documented what Tucker and Brownstein call a search for grace

and beauty.

Although the final sequencing for the disc is not complete, the band said the number of

songs slated for inclusion is hovering around 14. Among those guaranteed for release are:

"Banned From the End of the End of the World," "Hot Rock," "The Size of Our Love,"

"Living in Exile," "God Is a Number," "Get Up" and "A Quarter To Three." Also under

consideration is "By the Time You're 25," a track that wowed audiences when the group

played it on tour last spring.

"We all worked really hard in terms of what the songs are about," said Tucker, who, like

Weiss, calls Portland, Ore., home. (Brownstein lives in the group's original base,

Olympia, Wash.) "There's a lot of themes of love and struggling through different things.

They're also about working really hard in your life to find a sense of gracefulness. And I

think this record is more graceful because of it. That's also reflected in the searching that

the lyrics do about how to live your life."

While Sleater-Kinney's critically acclaimed Dig Me Out (1997) and Call the

Doctor were produced by Northwestern punk-mainstay John Goodmanson, for this

release, their fourth album, they turned to Roger Moutenot, known for his work with

indie-pop rockers Yo La Tengo, art-rock veteran Lou Reed and experimentalist John

Zorn.

"It's nice to have someone who really saw it from an outside perspective," Brownstein

said. "John was so much one of us. He went to school in Olympia. He's done so many

other records for Kill Rock Stars. It was nice to have someone from the outside a little bit,

but who also came to share our enthusiasm for the music."

In addition to pulling in fresh ears for the album, Sleater-Kinney also spent three and a

half weeks in the studio on this record, longer than they dedicated to any previous

release. Although plenty of rock stars wouldn't bat an eye at taking that long for a song or

two, it's nearly twice as long as Sleater-Kinney spent on Dig Me Out.

"On Dig Me Out, we basically set up our amps how we wanted them to sound and

played the whole record in sort-of a live setting," Tucker said. "For this record, we spent

at least two hours getting the guitar sound for every song. And sometimes it would be two

hours on each guitar-sound just for a certain part."

The end result is a more varied sound on each song and a more natural-sounding

record, Tucker added.

"Because of its variation, it breathes a little bit more and it has a little bit more space to it,"

she said.