Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sleater-Kinney: One Beat [Kill Rock Stars, 2002]
Sleater-Kinney is one of three unapologetically political bands to respond to September 2001's world-change with August 2002 albums, and it's remarkable how different they are. The Mekons are cynical and defiant; Springsteen is spiritual and uplifting. Yet both seem worn out, as if neither defiance nor uplift can get them out of bed in the morning. Sleater-Kinney, on the other hand, go for defiant uplift and seem energized by the challenge. Probably it isn't the stance that energizes them--it's their energy that powers the stance. Not only are they a generation younger, they're riding the crest of a wild success burdened by neither the Mekons' quarter-century of subsistence nor Springsteen's felt responsibility to 10 million consumers--not to mention that Corin spent 2001 with her new baby, who plays a suitably small and crucial role in her September 11 song. Throughout they bubble and shriek--literally in the opener, where Corin's "bubble in a sound wave" is the secret of both social and nuclear fusion, and in the career guitar line Carrie lays under "Oh!" Let "Step Aside" do its thing and you'll "shake a tail feather for peace and love" no matter what your weary self thinks of protest songs. A