Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Imperial Teen are a sexually integrated San Francisco quartet who make no bones about their unusual gender commitments. "Why you gotta be so proud?/I'm the one with lipstick on," sings "looped on estrogen" ex-Faith No More keyboardist Randy Bottum, who leads this more modest outfit on guitar and vocals. "You're fucking movie stars, I'm fucking congressmen." Those lines are from three different songs on What Is Not To Love (Slash), but what the songs mean beyond such evocative moments I couldn't say and don't care. I listen for the sweetly strange tunes that deepen a jangle-and-drone style grown so traditional most of its proponents sound bored these days. Imperial Teen sound immersed instead, probably due to their gender commitment, which makes them feel they're saying something new.

Sleater-Kinney, the all-female trio led by out lesbians Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, never sound bored either. But Cadallaca's Introducing Cadallaca (K), on which Tucker leads a hard-to-resist "pop" trio drenched in cheesy organ, suggests that the secret of Tucker's freshness isn't her sexuality, staunch though it is. She just has too much music in her to hold inside. The fourth Sleater-Kinney album, The Hot Rock (Kill Rock Stars), is slightly less intense and direct than the first two, so maybe Tucker's side project dissipated her strength a little. But Brownstein has always been almost as big a presence in this band, whose vocal tradeoffs and look-ma-no-bass guitar cross-talk continue to generate enormous drive. I'm not saying you should forget Korn or Sugar Ray, although you might. But these gender rebels can rock.

Playboy, Feb. 1999

Jan. 1999 Mar. 1999