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Thursday, June 29, 2006 01:43 am

Goodbye, old friend

After 11 years, Sleater-Kinney announces its break-up

GOODBYE, OLD FRIEND: The news was posted, and Vinyl Static heard the line of dominoes fall — furious message-board posts, the rat-a-tat-tat of stunned bloggers, and a collective gasp — as the short and sweet announcement sank in: Sleater-Kinney is calling it quits. If you aren’t familiar with the Olympia, Wash., trio of punk rioters or can only pull the “that band that opened for Pearl Jam” citation, you have truly missed out. The mothers of the early-’90s feminist-punk movement known as riot grrrl are closing their guitar cases for an “indefinite hiatus” after 11 years as a band and just a year after unleashing The Woods, a fierce tour de force that is arguably their most visceral album to date. Long after Bikini Kill disbanded and “riot grrrl” was watered down to describe any female musician who doesn’t use cleavage as leverage, Sleater-Kinney and their music worked to stay relevant. Pleasantly shtickless, the trio relied on blistering guitars from Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein and the hard and fast drums of Janet Weiss. The last few dates left on the band’s current schedule will be the end of their live shows, and, according to the official Sleater-Kinney Web site, there are no plans for recordings or future tour outings.

They were women exceeding men in a man’s world, in an industry that doesn’t look too kindly on girls who steal their boyfriend’s guitars. The music was punk but all grown up: angular, complex, and literate, yet maintaining a tear-your-face-off quality. Tucker provided hauntingly powerful, animalistic yelps, complementing Brownstein’s Valley-girl-gone-bad vocals perfectly. When the trio abandoned their mainstay label Kill Rock Stars for a release on the enormous Sub Pop, it appeared that Sleater-Kinney’s twilight years as a veteran rock band were just beginning. The Woods had the intense feel of Call the Doctor with welcome pop sensibilities. But, alas, the book is closing, likely for good.

Sleater-Kinney is an amazing band, not just an amazing all-female band. Their influence is already registering on the radar in such femme rockers as Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces, but that won’t be the end of it. Somewhere, a rebellious tween has just learned the chords to Sleater-Kinney’s mid-’90s hit “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.” We’re all in trouble.
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