The Hot Rock
Kill Rock Stars
By: Eric Greenwood
The Hot Rock is an abrupt departure from the angular assault of Sleater-Kinney’s last offering, Dig Me Out. The guitars are quieter and more intricate yet they retain a sense of urgency that is the common denominator in all of Sleater-Kinney’s music. Lead vocalist Corin Tucker’s wailing vibrato is still jaggedly surging as the centerpiece for the band’s emotional attack, but the formula is less aggressive with complex guitar work not too dissimilar from some of Unwound’s recent output. The band is still riding the wave of critical acclaim that Dig Me Out inspired, which was, perhaps, a bit over-hyped, but The Hot Rock makes a good case for similar praise, showing that Sleater-Kinney has more up its sleeve than one trick pony punk.
Tucker’s voice will either grate on your nerves or endear you to her every emotion. It’s instantly recognizable, sounding both vulnerable and viscious often in the same breath. Tucker trades off vocal duties much more on this album with Carrie Brownstein, so if you were put off by some of Tucker’s histrionics in the past Brownstein tends to soften the blow, especially on the title track and “The End Of You.” It’s always Tucker’s yelp, however, that carries the greatest emotional impact, particularly when she really punches it.
The Hot Rock is Sleater-Kinney’s best record and not just because it explores more than just surface level punk, but also because the band sounds so much more confident and in control. The changes might not all be furious but they are more interesting and effectual. The band’s lyrics are also an area of strength, separating them from the usually bland and cliched genre of angry punk. The songs explore simple enough terrain: love, loss, jealousy, and rage, but it’s done with such honesty and fervor that it sounds totally new. The Hot Rock will easily go down as one of the top rock records of the year, and Sleater-Kinney remains one of the most exciting bands to behold.