It lasts just 35 seconds, but it's perhaps the most exciting piece of music you'll hear all year.
In those 35 seconds, I hear much of what rock 'n' roll aspires to. Rebellion. Anger. Fun. Freedom. Sex. Community. Hope. Revolution. Release. A better world. And a whole lot more.
It's the purest of rock moments, which is to say that it's messy and loud and fast and confusing and truly thrilling.
The song is "The Professional." It appears on the upcoming Sleater-Kinney album, All Hands on the Bad One (May 2). Sung by Carrie Brownstein, "The Professional" is, in part, about the difficulty that women face trying to fit into what is still a man's world. Maybe fit in isn't the right way to express it. Stake their claim? Get equal time? Make a stand? Take a stand? Take what's rightfully theirs? Demand it?
Earlier in the song, before we hit those amazing 35 seconds, Brownstein sings:
"There is a sound they don't want you to own/ Arrest every word that escapes from your throat/ They hand you the world's smallest microphone/ It's still too loud and you're asked to go home."
Brownstein told me recently that she was writing about women artists, and the reality that, for the most part, they are tolerated only so long as they don't take up space that would be, or is, occupied by male artists. And, of course, she's not talking about women who are mouthing words written by men.
In another of the upcoming album's tracks, "Male Model," Brownstein's bandmate Corin Tucker declares: "You don't own the situation, honey/ You don't own the stage/ We're here to join the conversation/ And we're here to raise the stakes ... It's time for a new rock 'n' roll age/ History will have to find a different face/ And if you're ready for more/ I just might be what you're looking for."
But back to "The Professional."
It starts off like an update of a great Ramones song. Pounding, relentless punk beneath Brownstein's driving, monotone vocals. And then the song takes off. It feels like you just stepped onto a bullet train. Or hit warp speed.
"You better watch what you, you better watch what you say," Tucker warns.
Brownstein counters, with bratty defiance: "No way!"
Tucker: "They're coming after you, they'll get into your head."
Brownstein: "You're head, your hea-head."
And then the two start speaking in tongues over some crazed music that vaguely reminds me of the B-52s' dark, brilliant "Dance This Mess Around."
This is what rock, what punk, is all about.
It's the way the words are sung, and it's the words themselves, what they mean. It's how the music builds, the tension, and it's the pure rush of the sound.
Great rock can take you me to a whole other place. The world just falls away. It's not there. I'm not there. Nothing exists. You forget everything; you're lost in the moment, and all the moment is about is this sound.
"And if you're ready for more/ I just might be what you're looking for."
Copyright 2000 Michael Goldberg. All rights reserved