One Beat

Sleater-Kinney

Kill Rock Stars Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/20/2002

It's hard to fault musicians for addressing the horrific events of Sept 11 in this year's crop of albums. The events of that day carried such magnitude that it's hard not to address it. And, it rang as an event that had an impact on virtually everyone in America. Even those who say the day did not change a thing in their lives, that still rings as a bold statement.

Most artists have played it safe. Some have resorted to dunderheaded flag-waving and have wrapped themselves in the American flag, while making a decent profit to boot. Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, two of arguably the most respected musicians in North America, have released songs that try to make sense of that day. Sadly, both of those artists have released works that stay fairly close to the center.

Enter Sleater-Kinney. Of all the artists who have released their takes on 9/11, Sleater-Kinney's One Beat so far stands as probably the most definitive and striking statement of those day's events. On the bouncing "Step Aside," the power trio rail against fundamentalists who use violence to get their views across and politicians who exploit paranoia to take away civil liberties.

Their 'official' 9/11 song, "Faraway," dwarfs Alan Jackson's "Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning," simply by the setup: a woman, nusing her newborn, gets a phone call. It was a phrase that many of us heard early that morning if we received a phone call from friends or loved ones : "Turn on the TV."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Sleater Kinney do get a bit carried away with the emotion of the song and deliver a low-blow at the President : "And the president hides/ while working men rush in to give their lives." You can dog Dub-yah all you want, but Air Force One was made to serve as a Presidential HQ. And any other president would have been on that plane. But minor gripes aside, Sleater-Kinney do a great job on mapping out the general emotions of people who were trying to make sense of the unimaginable. "Why can't I get along with yoooooou?!" Corin Tucker yells in her patent shrill delivery, not totally expecting to get an answer.

Along with current events, One Beat also graps with motherhood. It's a heafty load for any album. But Sleater Kinney pull it off. It doesn't hurt that the album rocks like a mother. Springsteen's The Rising, as moving as it was, wasn't the classic that some critics dubbed it after giving it only listen. On One Beat, Sleater-Kinney may not have answers, but they give the listener something that is more important: a cathartic release.

Even with the heavy themes, One Beat is a listening experience that borders on giddy. "Oh!" has to be one of the sexiest songs written in recent memory. The Go-Gos-like intro, "If you're tired of the big so-so, oo oo oo" is pure pop bliss. The song is complete with hand-claps and a cheery chorus. Carrie Brownstone's and Corin Tucker's guitar work hasn't been this loose and flat-out joyful since their most acclaimed release, Dig Me Out.

And even though the band doesn't have a bassist, that has not stopped Sleater Kinney from making their most assured and melodic album of their career. Janet Weiss remains one of the most powerful drummers in rock. On "Oh!" and the pulverizing closer, "Sympathy," she hammers a rhythm into your head that only gets better with repeat listens.

One Beat does stumble a bit midway through, but that's only because it's ancored by five amazing lead-off songs and two ending songs that pack a whallop on the listener. It's short enough to wade the middle, but "O2" and "Pristina" are somewhat forgettable. Things start to pick up with "Funeral Song." If anything, the song has one of the most hard-to-forget lyrics on an album full of them: "Nothing says 'forever' like our very own grave"

Albums like One Beat show that the moment people say "Rock is Dead," a band will come out to prove that assumption dead wrong. What's tragic is that One Beat will likely get overlooked at the end of the year for the hype-driven craze surrounding the 'The' bands, such as The Hives and The Vines (The White Stripes excluded). No matter. "One Beat" stands as one of the best albums that Sleater Kinney has put out and a great 'first album' purchase for neophites.

Rating: B+

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© 2002 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Kill Rock Stars Records, and is used for informational purposes only.