I remember reading an article in one of the UK’s music weeklies or monthlies back in 1997 or 98 about what was going on in the U.S. alternative music scene. Sleater-Kinney’s third album Dig Me Out had just been released and the article exclaimed that we just needed to sit back and wait for endless more bands to appear having been inspired by this record. Such bombastic praise is perhaps not particularly unusual within music journalism but in this case it was correct. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sleater-Kinney is that they went on to repeat this across several more albums, the quality of their output hardly ever wavering right up to their final album The Woods.
A year or so later I saw them play at King Tuts in Glasgow as part of the Dig Me Out tour. The band I played in at the time were opening for them on a bill that also included The Yummy Fur (Oh my god were we excited..) and they were equally breathtaking live as they were on record. This gig was busy, but not exactly packed out. The critical acclaim around the band at this time had not yet translated to record sales and bigger venues than clubs but that was to come over the following years. Dig Me Out and the introduction of Janet Weiss on drums seemed like the major kick-starter for that process.
The rate of development from their 1995 debut Sleater-Kinney and 1996’s Call the Doctor to Dig Me Out is incredible and it all happened across such a short space of time. Ok we’re not quite at Guided by Voices levels of productivity here but the songwriting partnership between Corrin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein provided so much quality in so short a space of time.
After Dig Me Out the standard didn’t drop for a second. The three albums that followed, 1999’s The Hot Rock, 2000’s All Hands on the Bad One and 2002’s One Beat were all fairly similar in nature, sometimes a little more subdued (the Hot Rock), sometimes a little more noisy (All Hands on the Bad One) and perhaps slightly more angry than usual (One Beat). Never any less brilliant. It was only 2005’s The Woods, the bands’ final album at the time and rooted in classic rock, that made any significant departure from their most recognised style. By this time Sleater-Kinney’s popularity had grown considerably over the years. We’re not talking Pearl Jam levels of fame here but certainly a major departure from their Olympia Riot Grrrl roots. Then it all stopped. Their unwavering presence across 12 years would come to an end in 2006 and many hearts would be broken. Until now of course as excitement builds towards the bands 2015 return.
My personal favourite Sleater Kinney album? Usually depends which one I’ve just listened to although I think it’s fair to say I go back to Dig Me Out slightly more than the others. Every song on that album is memorable, no more so than the devastatingly sad One More Hour.
Now for the geeky part. The Start Together box set is a large slice of heaven for vinyl lovers. Sub Pop love to produce a special edition or two, a “Loser” edition as they lovingly refer to these things. The contents of this box are beautiful and the perfect tribute to Sleater-Kinney and their career thus far.
Vinyl aside there is a fabulous hard-back photo book crammed full of previously unseen pictures of the band. It’s all presented in chronological order with photos representing the times and tours for each album. There’s also a nice foreword from each of the band members. It’s a great pictorial history of the band in a format that works far better than any online gallery ever could.
The box also came with a white vinyl 7″ single featuring Bury Our Friends from their forthcoming album No Cities to Love. I’ve written about this elsewhere in this blog so I’ll not write any more here.
As for the seven albums, each is produced on a different coloured clear vinyl with a marbled effect. Each comes with an inner lyric sleeve as well. The One Beat LP also includes a poster of the photo from the front cover of the box set. The Woods is a gatefold cover, double green vinyl with music on 3 sides.
The box set isn’t a complete musical history of the band. Sleater-Kinney did release other songs on various singles and compilations. A particular favourite of mine is a split 7″ with Cypher in the Snow as part of the Free to Fight singles series on Candy-Ass Records.
Overall Sub Pop have clearly put a lot of love into this collection. Fans of the band who also love their vinyl will treasure this collection forever.
Next on the want-list will be the Loser edition of the new album, out in Jan on Sub Pop of course!
- Label – Sub Pop
- Released Monday 20th October (UK)
- Format – Limited Edition of 3,000 box sets containing 7 x LP albums on various coloured vinyl + Book + Art Print + 7″ single on white vinyl (one side etched – 500 random copies of this 7″ were signed by the band)
- Note – After the initial 3,000 boxes sold out the set is being reissued with each LP on black vinyl. Each remastered album has also been released individually on black vinyl