Sleater-Kinney - All Hands On the Bad One - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Sleater-Kinney - All Hands On the Bad One

by Tim Sentz Rating:9 Release Date:2000-05-02
Sleater-Kinney - All Hands On the Bad One
Sleater-Kinney - All Hands On the Bad One

For some time, I found myself believing that Sleater-Kinney was a country band, so I avoided them until their return in late 2014. “Bury Our Friends” was a gut punch and I immediately explored their back catalog. Today, SK is one of the few bands with an immaculate record in my book. Not a single bad album and their midway point is All Hands on the Bad One, their first record for the 21st century, and a bold step towards mainstream rock.

The success of the album, as well as it’s follow-up One Beat would put SK in the opening slot for a tour with Pearl Jam, and in 2006 after a handful of solid riot grrl punk rock albums, the band took a much-needed hiatus.

Sleater-Kinney’s success can be attributed to the solid collaboration between its three primary songwriters – lead singer Corin Tucker, indie darling Carrie Brownstein, and drummer Janet Weiss. Kicking the album off with “Ballad Of a Ladyman,” with its almost-twangy introduction, coupled with Tucker’s iconic range, Bad One implemented a new approach to their music. It’s the starting point of their official rise – around this time the Internet started to pick up and their music was able to spread. More a strategical choice than a boredom approach, Bad One takes all the successful aspects of their previous work and makes it just a tiny bit more accessible.

The five-song string to start the album is unfuckwithable, some of my favorite SK songs are right here – “Ironclad” with its surf rock guitars, and Tucker’s bellowing voice are striking, cathartic even. What SK accomplishes here is not just paving the way for a more mainstream indie rock pathway for females, but just makes a cracking album. Nothing’s disposable on Bad One, and to newcomers, the title track might be the best place to start as it’s one of the most direct cuts from them up to that point. The chorus alone makes it memorable, but everything from Weiss’ drumming, to Brownstein’s cry, are bountiful. If there’s one thing to take from the song it’s that the band is completely in unison, harmonious, and while they didn’t change up the formula too much over the years, they didn’t need to.

The themes presented on All Hands On the Bad One aren’t unique – political, social, even identity all come into play just like as before, but it’s all assembled with purpose. 2000 was a rough year for the United States – a race for the White House between Gore and Bush was underway, and for a band made up of queer women, the anti-gay beliefs of Bush Jr. were threatening. “Youth Decay” seems directly related to domestic and child abuse, tying into the themes present for years in their music. But the fact that they flip the script on the next track with a fun, jangle-pop inspired “You’re No Rock N Roll Fun” shows a band who knows their audience better than ever.

Looking back on the record, 18 years removed, it’s crazy to think that they’d continue this kind of strength for two more records before taking a break. “Was it a Lie?” puts Tucker’s vocals in prime form, front, and center, and even if the tightness of the bass and drums stays very much in the same production as before, it compliments Tucker well. After taking a break from for The Hot Rock, SK resumed worked with John Goodmanson – a staple for them. The crisp production shines – everything from the pounding snares to the heights that Tucker takes her voice are thanks to a comfortable and productive collaboration.

There’s no wrong place to start with Sleater-Kinney, but All Hands On the Bad One represents a turning point for them – living in a changing America, a year before the September 11th attacks, but still in a scary and unpredictable world. It’s a staple for the 2000s. “Leave You Behind” might be the purest example of the band’s talents, as the chorus shows off them being a tightly wound unit, mixing in almost-folky elements as they breach angelic levels. If you were ignorant of Sleater-Kinney like I was at one point, All Hands On the Bad One is an exceptional starting point. It has all of the necessary SK characteristics and harnesses the band's talents into one sweeping record.

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