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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Indie trio calls it quits

    Indie trio calls it quits

    The news that Sleater-Kinney had broken up went through the music world like a gunshot. It was indiedom’s equivalent of the firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

    “”After 11 years as a band, Sleater-Kinney have decided to go on indefinite hiatus,”” the band announced on their Web site, www.sleater-kinney.com, last week.

    “”The upcoming summer shows will be our last. As of now, there are no plans for future tours or recordings.””

    This was the band for which the term “”indie darlings”” might have been invented. Since their second album, 1996’s Call the Doctor, the Portland-based female rock trio has been, to put it mildly, deified by critics.

    And their fanbase is no less enthusiastic. It’s not uncommon to meet a Sleater-Kinney fan who’s seen them dozens of times. Most of us figured they’d be around forever; it seems like they already have been.

    But after their last show in Portland on Aug. 11, Sleater-Kinney will be no more. And all we’ll have, apart from seven albums and hundreds of bootleg tapes, will be memories. The band formed in 1995 from the ashes of the riot grrrl movement, naming themselves after a street in Olympia, Wash. Corin Tucker’s feral yelpings and Carrie Brownstein’s gut-bucket guitar made their early material tense, even disturbing, listening.

    In 1997, with the acquirement of new drummer Janet Weiss, the band shed its punk roots and developed a sound based on the unique interplay between Tucker’s and Brownstein’s voices and guitars. This was best displayed on their emotional masterpiece, 1999’s The Hot Rock.

    But by the time of their fourth album, All Hands on the Bad One, they had cut back on the shouting, smoothed over their rough edges, and developed an unsettling resemblance to a slightly edgier version of the Go-Gos. The album was well received but many suspected that Sleater-Kinney were starting to stagnate.

    They made a major comeback with 2002’s One Beat, a rumbling, titanic hard-rock album that drew comparisons to Led Zeppelin. 2005’s sprawling, experimental The Woods was even better received, with many calling it the best work of their career. Touring last year with Pearl Jam, the band received wider exposure than ever before.

    So why break up now? Maybe their famous camaraderie was finally starting to dissolve. In a recent interview, Tucker hinted that tensions among the band made recording their last album difficult.

    Or, perhaps the reasons were more practical. The critical buzz never translated into record sales the way it did for bands like the White Stripes and Radiohead. All three members had day jobs throughout the band’s career, and all three played on and off with other bands.

    There’s even the possibility that the split won’t be permanent; after all, the band took a two-year break from 2000 to 2002 and returned better than ever.

    Maybe Sleater-Kinney decided to call it quits while they were still in their prime. It’s a disappointing decision for a band that could have lasted 30 years.

    To paraphrase Gen. MacArthur: Most bands never die, they just fade away. Now at least we know Sleater-Kinney will never fade into irrelevance like many of their peers. They went out at the top, and we’ll never forget them.

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