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Did we mention this record is completely amazing? It will make you want to jump up out of your chair, find your friends and change the world.
For all the noisy bluster involving plastic barrettes, thrift-store guitars, and caterwauling political catchphrases, Sleater-Kinney have always been pragmatic about their music. The group's self-titled debut got by on ferocity alone. But each successive release has exhibited a dramatic step forward as youthful exuberance gives way to melody and poise. "i"One Beat is the trio's most assured work yet. A jubilant blast of tambourines, theremin, and Corin Tucker's rubber-band vocals usher in the spiky "Oh!," the Strokes' locker-room diffidence mingles with Sonic Youth's angular cool on "Prisstina," and the title track, all urgent wailing and power chords, rumbles with pure excitement. The rest of the album isn't far behind. --Aidin Vaziri
...From the opening, off-kilter drum pattern of the title track, One Beat takes you on a log flume ride through a forest of monumental riffs-- a log flume ride, people! Witness the fretboard slides of ''Hollywood Ending'', the cocky strut of ''Step Aside'', the mighty, fist-pumping second half of Combat Rock (to which I'd like to just give a premature Forkie for Best Riff of the Year right now). Also, be forewarned that the drumstick-twirling coda of Far Away has been shown to provoke sudden miming of snare hits and windmill strums in laboratory animals.
Now, you might be hearing a lot of crazytalk from longtime S-K supporters that the new album is their most disappointing to date. Ignore it; fanbase discomfort is a common symptom of the breakthrough album, proving that the act has tweaked their formula far enough to PO the vets who want their pet band to stay predictable. Kinney's definitely changed up the recipe (as they had already begun to do with All Hands on the Bad One), but all changes are positive, foremost being a new understanding of how restraint and scaling back can allow for exponentially increased rockage. ''Combat Rock'' and ''The Remainder'' stutter along a single riff, teasingly refusing to explode before building to a tantric peak. ''Light Rail Coyote'' and ''O2'' both come out with all engines blazing, but retreat to valleys of uncharacteristically subdued hush.
Also helping the cause is an increased singing role for Carrie Brownstein, who sounds more confident than ever sporting a fully developed hiccupy vocal character that plays off Tucker's wail like lime flavoring on Tostitos. For anyone of the opinion that Tucker's banshee act occasionally got out of hand on older S-K material, Brownstein's participation is welcome news for your fragile eardrums. The latest model of the Janet Weiss percussion-cyborg sings a bit, too, but her main contribution is her incredibly melodic drums, strident and full-bodied as ever.
Meanwhile, the band breaks out the required fifth-album accoutrements: horn section, strings, occasional keyboards. It might be predictable timing for the band to expand their sound, but it's handled delicately by producer John Goodmanson, who never allows the spice to overwhelm the dish (er, sonically speaking, of course). The slip-and-slide Moog on ''Oh!'' drives home the song's oh-woah-woah playfulness, ''Step Aside'''s marching band brass lends its revolution beckoning an epic quality, and Sam Coomes' theremin on ''Funeral Song'' fulfills the FDA requirements for any tune that mentions haunted houses, demons, and Halloween.
So except for a closing track (''Sympathy'') where the bluesy over-emoting reminds me of everything I used to dislike about the Sleater, One Beat is an uncompromising, energetic monster of a record. Most of all, it's just accessible (pardon my French) enough to be exactly what the rock world needs these days: the Trail of Dead for those put off by the Danzig-esque lyrics and relentless drum-rolling. It's a dive-headfirst-into-an-empty-pool, take-the-subway-to-Queens, snap-into-a-Slim-Jim, forget-to-bring-back the-library-books, tire-pressure-dangerously-low, sneaking-fireworks-across-the-Illinois-Indiana-border kind of album. That it's performed by three persons of the female gender is entirely beside the point, to anyone who's really listening. --Pitchfork
...On One Beat, Portland's Sleater-Kinney shake off the defensive tics that occasionally dampened The Hot Rock and All Hands on the Bad One it ain't easy being the World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band. Here they wear the mantle like an airy gingham dress in summer as they skip closer toward Spectorized girl-group soul and fiddle with newfangled toys. A horn section butters the crunchy riffing of the benefit-party dance riot ''Step Aside.'' A boy's voice joins the heretofore all-girls club when Hedwig and the Angry Inch composer Stephen Trask sings backup on the hilarious corrupted-by-rawk fable ''Prisstina.'' (In lieu of beaux, the model student in question ''fooled around with her Bunsen plate.'') Tucker and Brownstein experiment here and there with hyper-affected ululations: Corin traffics in Yoko-worthy yawps, hoots, and gasps, while Carrie discharges maniacally bratty taunts that veer across octaves at jagged random, notably on the ay-there's-the-Shrub political screed ''Combat Rock.''
Admittedly, the injection of novelties (especially Brownstein's laryngeal self-abuse) sometimes feels like the pinches and pokes of a veteran troupe pushing itself to stay interested. But Sleater-Kinney have never exhausted their inborn, ineffable knack for rabidly contagious hooks, trampolined into the stratosphere by Weiss's seismic sticks. One Beat is ruthless with SuperGlue riffs that reach back a decade or more, from the Go-Gos pogo of ''Oh!'' to the stuttering Cure guitars of ''The Remainder'' to the Buzzcocks toolings of ''Hollywood Ending.'' The lyrics are another story on the last song, suffice to say, they point out that in Tinseltown, ''Truth's as rare as the winter snow.'' But since no other band so exuberantly celebrates solidarity, the women can soapbox vaguely all they want about how to ''knife through the heart of our exploitation'' (on ''Step Aside'') so long as it's on the heels of Corin's ecstatic ''JANET CARRIE CAN YOU FEEL IT!'' --Village Voice
Despite taunting list-making indie boys with 'You're No Rock'n'Roll Fun',Sleater-Kinney's reputation as dry feministas still precedes them like a fun-squashing elephant. There's nothing like perpetuating a stereotype by repeating it but when they're creating songs as febrile and intelligent as 'Step Aside' and 'Oh!', it's hard to understand why they're not as huge as an all-Strokes version of 'Big Brother'. Few bands could explore motherhood and terrorism without making you want to shoot them: Corin Tucker's electric-shock voice and the adrenal guitars make them as essential pop topics as schoolyard crushes and backstreet drugs.
On 'Light-Rail Coyote', they use a local news story about a feral animal boarding the airport train: it's the perfect metaphor. In between the domestic, the commercial and the worldly, Sleater-Kinney keep it wild. --New Musical Express
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