Sleater-Kinney’s All Hands on the Bad One (2000)

All Hands on the Bad One

Album: All Hands on the Bad One
Artist: Sleater-Kinney
Year: 2000
Reason Featured: #10 on The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Poll for 2000, #16 Album for Pitchfork’s Top Twenty Albums of 2000
My Favorite Songs: Ironclad, All Hands on the Bad One, You’re No Rock and Roll Fun, #1 Must Have, The Professional, Was It A Lie?
Their Grades: Rolling Stone (3/5), NME (8/10), Pitchfork (8.3/10), Robert Christgau (A-)
My Grade: 93%

Nowadays, if you bring up Sleater-Kinney, at least someone you’re talking to is bound to say, “Wasn’t that the girl from Portlandia’s band?” Carrie Brownstein does, indeed, hail from this set of indie-rock ladies and it’s funny looking back on All Hands on the Bad One with the IFC series in mind. For one thing, it’s proof the revolution Sleater-Kinney was calling for worked. Carrie is as much a creative and comedic force on the show as Fred, just as we’re also living in an era where Skyler White and Claire Underwood hold as much weight as their husbands in their respective series’. Riot grrrls aren’t in the underground anymore, they’re in the mainstream.

But though this record works as a successful feminist and/or political statement, it’s primarily a blast to listen to. The lyrics are characterized by clever cultural analysis and strong femininity but never comes across as heavy-handed. The main message isn’t “gender equality,” although that factors in. It’s “rock and roll.” Corin Tucker’s hiccuping vocals pair up perfectly with her and Carrie Brownstein’s dueling guitar setup. This is the indie rock sound of Pavement, Slint and Built to Spill percolated inside three brilliant female minds and made their very own.

I knew as soon as I hit “Play” that this would be an album which continually grows in my estimation. From the opening guitar twinkling of “The Ballad of a Ladyman” to the mysterious swampiness of “The Swimmer,” I was never bored for a second. Here comes the groan-worthy pun: how am I supposed lay all hands on the bad one if there isn’t one here? Every song on here could’ve been put out as a single and gone to number one in a perfect world. For that matter, the only one that did get released as a single (“You’re No Rock and Roll Fun”) is so fun it’ll go on almost every mix CD you make after hearing it. After a long string of reviewing albums close to or over an hour, it’s refreshing to hear an album just under forty minutes which arguably packs a greater wallop than any of those attempted epics. This became a favorite for me as soon as I heard it, here’s hoping the same goes for you.

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