Though I was due to review a different album this week, I recently finished Carrie Brownstein's memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl. I was loathe to miss out on the opportunity to finally crack into some Sleater-Kinney with Brownstein's take on her time in the band fresh in my mind. Much of the book deftly handles the nuances of both being an individual as part of a group and a band as part of a movement, acutely describing the isolation and confusion that can occur in each. Brownstein mourns the passing of certain cultural signifiers into commodification, encapsulating the paradox of being at the centre of a movement whilst also sensing a distance from inevitably bearing witness to that movement.
I preferred the book. Call the Doctor is the album that garnered Sleater-Kinney critical acclaim, could even be called their breakthrough hit, during the wave of Riot Grrrl bands entering the American consciousness. There is energy and anger here aplenty but it's distinctly of its time and place, more specifically, mid-90s Pacific Northwest, which acts more as a barrier than a signpost. As a time capsule, it's endearingly paradigmatic but its rawness feels unhemmed rather than pure. Corin Tucker's voice is distinct and challenging but is lost amongst the other instruments. As Sleater-Kinney were putting themselves forward as having important things say, it's a bizarre choice to drown the lyrics - the literal voices - amongst the rest of the noise. When the lyrics can be heard, they're a little on the nose but it's undeniable that they're played with a personal significance but, beyond the ringing in my ears, they don't manage to resonate.
For sheer tenacity of youth - Brownstein was 22 when this album was released - this album deserves the punkiest accolades. At a break neck 30 minutes, it won't take up much of your time but it doesn't reward your attention as I expect later offerings of the band might. Exciting as it may be at points to listen to something with so much dynamism, when that isn't matched with a songwriting maturity it can simply steamroller you, leaving you flattened and wondering how you'll stand up again.