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Live in Cologne, Germany, 20.07.2000

You're Rock'N'Roll Fun

Sometimes it sucks being a music journalist. Because you're supposed to be somewhat objective. And you're supposed to find the right words to describe a record or a show. If I wasn't a music journalist, I'd probably say words fail me to describe how fucking amazing Sleater-Kinney's show at the Gebäude 9 in Cologne, Germany was. But I'll try to nevertheless.

Mary Timony opened the show with just drummer Christina Files in tow and despite the fact that she delivered an excellent set, which sounded a lot more like her former band Helium than her recent solo debut Mountains, it was merely a warm up for what was to follow. You know how Sleater-Kinney have been pigeon-holed as a Riot-Grrrl- band in the past, and hey, if you're honest it's not THAT difficult to see why they didn't cross over to the mainstream with the first couple of albums on which Corin Tucker's wail is even among the more accessible elements. But Sleater-Kinney are not the band anymore that they used to be five years ago. Not only is their fifth album All Hands On The Bad One a prime example of pure rock'n'roll, it's also so overflowing with great riffs and melodies - it almost hurts. And on stage, the three girls from Portland and Olympia are better still. MUCH better in fact. So good even, that after the show the representative from their english record company said he never ever saw a better Sleater-Kinney show.

Sleater-Kinney are not a rock'n'roll band. Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss ARE rock'n'roll. I'm not gonna say that I never saw a harder rocking band, because it wouldn't be true. Royal Trux do rock harder. So does Iggy Pop. And probably quite a few others. But all these acts are constantly at risk of becoming their own parody. Sleater-Kinney are not. What we got here is mostly white light, a black curtain, three girls, two guitars, drums and vocals. End of story.

Of course Sleater-Kinney do have something to say and all, but on stage the sole purpose of many of their songs is to - ROCK. Sleater-Kinney are elemental. Almost every other band should bow before them, because Sleater-Kinney bring you THE ROCK. Their seventy minute main set drew heavily from All Hands On The Bad One - some golden "oldies" like Little Babies were thrown in for good measure - which is to say that it was rock'n'roll fun of the highest order: The Ballad Of A Ladyman! Ironclad! Milkshake N'Honey! (Insert your favorite here)!

The album's title track and You're No Rock'N'Roll Fun (very fittingly introduced as "our dance song" - it definitely is one of the few punk songs you can dance to properly) were among the highlights. And by the time the girls said goodbye with a thunderous version of Dig Me Out you knew that all the Ramones comparisons that have been thrown at Sleater-Kinney are bullshit. Because in their best moments Sleater-Kinney are the Ramones stripped down to their bare essentials. In fact, the Ramones sound like Peter Frampton if compared to tonight's Sleater-Kinney show.

coverpic Carrie said that the German shows have been the most fun on their European tour so far and if the rapturous reaction from the Cologne crowd was anything to go by, that's probably not just something she said to make the audience happy. Of course they returned to do encores. A trio of songs from their awesome Dig Me Out album is what they wanted to do, Carrie told the crowd when she returned to the stage, but just when you thought it couldn't get any better than One More Hour, Sleater-Kinney made you think again. Because the girls were having so much fun that they decided to throw in a rare cover version and so we got a staggeringly raw version of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic Fortune Son. People old enough to remember will tell you that CCR were one of the hardest rocking bands of the 70s, but after you've heard Sleater-Kinney ripping through this song you'd probably think CCR just sound like some ageing hippies. Okay, on stage Carrie always looks like a female Angus Young, with her Gibson SG and all, but for three and a half minutes she WAS Angus, one foot on the monitor, beating her guitar more than playing it, one arm high in the air during the break, playing THAT riff harder, louder, BETTER than CCR ever did. At least I cannot imagine that it ever sounded any better. Can somebody please put this version on a b-side, a compilation, SOMEWHERE - just put it out, pleeeeeze!

There was no way that they could've topped this, unless they would've done the epic closer from Dig Me Out, a song called Jenny, your correspondent's personal favorite. Then again looking through old show reports and setlists, you'll notice that they have played the song exactly ONCE over the last 12 months (!) and that was at Matador's 10 year anniversary extravaganza in London - last September! But hey, for whatever reasons this show in Cologne was a special one for Corin, Carrie and Janet and so they did close with Jenny. It was just great. And I was in shock! After that, the lights came up, the taped music started and the show was over. Until the girls returned, to do three more songs from Call The Doctor that - you've guessed it - ROCKED!

The facts: 90 minutes of maximum rock n roll, including a seven song encore that left nothing to be desired. Okay, maybe they could've done Little Mouth as well, but then again they already played 24 songs tonight, which is a lot more than they usually do. (To my knowledge this was one of the longest Sleater-Kinney show ever!)

I had missed them the first time they came to Germany in 1997, and I thought it wasn't a big deal. Tonight's show proved me wrong, even though Janet assured me afterwards that tonight's gig "probably was a lot better". They came, they saw, they ripped the place to shreds.

As a little bonus I wanna add a list of five underrated records recommended by Corin and Janet. It's from an interview conducted in Cologne last year, but it definitely still proves their excellent taste:

Janet: "Elliott Smith's self titled album. It's got some of the best songs on it you probably will ever hear, it's much different from the new record [she's referring to XO - author's note], which is what most people probably have heard. I guess Either/Or is the record I listen to most, but this has some of the most initimate songs on it."
Corin: "Little Red Car Wreck's Motor Like a Mother. That's a really obscure record on Yo Yo Recordings. It's this woman named Mary Water who is a singer songwriter from Olympia, WA, and she's the mother of a young child, she's only 21 herself and she made a very interesting record about being an independant woman and a single mother and an independant musicians. It's with Pat Maley who was in Lois' band Courtney Love."
Janet: "Belle & Sebastian's The Boy In The Arab Strap. I think it would be benefical for people in Germany to listen to that record cause it's very un-german. At first I was sorta attached to the album before and I sorta had to take myself away from that one to get into the new one. But there's a really unique moment on there I think, to any's the story about going to outer space with a father and a sister. It totally draws you in. It forces you to listen to this record."
Corin: "Even my dad likes Belle And Sebastian."
Corin: "Neutral Milk Hotel's On Avery Island. They are from Athens, GA, and they are a band I really like. Their first album is probably my favourite. [your correspondent begs to differ, he prefers In An Aeroplane Over the Sea, their sophomore effort]. You like the second album best? I like them both a lot, but I lost my copy of the second one so I haven't listened to it in a long time. Jeff Mangum is a great songwriter, really organic and totally natural and totally unique."
Janet: "Shocking Blue. They are a late 60s pop band from Europe (The Netherlands - editor's note). I don't know the title of the album [probably The Best Of Shocking Blue], it's the one that had Mighty Joe on it. It has got really interesting melodies and a great female singer who's singing in english fanatically, making these wird tones of certain words."

Copyright © 2000 Carsten Wohlfeld e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Sleater-Kinney articles/reviews: All Hands On The Bad One, No Cities to Love.

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