Even if your only point of reference is the band’s previous album All Hands on the Bad One [insert guilty look here], one thing is pretty obvious with Sleater-Kinney’s new disc, One Beat.
It’s damn ferocious.
Sleater-Kinney has already established itself as one of the most passionate rock bands in the world, interlocking their parts to make the largest sound three people can produce.
It’s not enough drummer Janet Weiss pounds the life out of her kit — her beats are woven into the dynamic exchange between Corin Tucker and Carrie Bowenstein.
“Tight” doesn’t begin to describe Sleater-Kinney.
On One Beat, the trio cranks everything up.
In addition to playing the hell out of its instruments, Sleater-Kinney expands its musical vocabulary.
The base of the band’s creative stew is still punk rock, delivered with same kind of primordial savagery Igor Stravinsky keyed into with Le Sacre du Printemps. (I made the same comparrison on the last album. It applies even more so here.)
But on “Light Rail Coyote”, Bowenstein and Tucker channel Jimmy Page with a hulking, mid-tempo, Zeppelin-esque riff. “Step Aside” indulges in a bit of classic R&B, complete with horns.
Although the trio has no need for a bass guitar, they’re not above including some keyboards, as evident on such tracks as “Combat Rock”, “Oh!” and “Prisstina”.
These added parts might seem unnecessary, especially with Bowenstein and Tucker occupying so much sonic real estate on these songs. But somehow, the organs and horns don’t get in the way, nor do they detract from anything.
Everywhere else, Sleater-Kinney lets volume and density determine the album’s aural course. Right from the opening beats of the title track, the group makes its agenda obvious — this album won’t let up one fuckin’ bit.
Even without paying attention to the lyrics of “Far Away”, which deals with 9/11 without any hint of rhetoric, the track is a blistering display of thunderous drumming and menancing guitar work.
Speaking of the newly dubbed Patriot’s Day, Sleater-Kinney won’t let a national tragedy blunt its skepticism: “Show you love your country go out and spend some cash.”
With a bigger sound and more flexible writing, Sleater-Kinney has produced an overwhelming album. One Beat is an exhausting 43 minute-listen, satisfying if you like the shit getting kicked out of your ears.