Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lost and Found (Album): Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out

(Update - I did this a few nights ago and after much deliberation, deleted most of what I'd written because it sounded overly critical of the whole "riot grrrl" scene of the 90s. I'm in a weird place: on one hand I love a lot of that music and "get it." On another, I see the classism and elitism of a scene that makes itself largely unavailable to girls who need feminist role models. Also, as I was writing that last sentence about not have my "sense of self stripped away and replaced by something new," I realized it wasn't my scene, and trying to write about it as if it was feels forced and unnatural. Truth be told, I was a a little too old for riot grrrl or even for Tori, Liz or Alanis. Maybe had I still been in high school, I would have has that "woo-hoo!" moment.  I probably needed them in high school.)

Sometimes I feel as if I'm rewriting my own history.

There's been a spate of books and blog posts written about 90s female-led rock bands, and though I listened to a lot -- a lot -- of that music throughout my late teens and early twenties, I always felt I was hovering on the periphery of that scene. I love reading other women's accounts of Liz Phair or Alanis or Bikini Kill changing their lives, but I'd be a hypocrite if I said that every record I ever loved was somehow life-changing. Some of them were just records I loved. Music didn't teach me how to be a strong, outspoken critic of the patriarchy. I had a library card and an equally outspoken, second-wave feminist mother for that.

I had a simple system for discovering new music: I turned on the one good radio station whose idea of alternative wasn't a continuous loop of Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, and Jane's Addiction. Or I went to one of my city's few enclaves of hip and glommed onto whatever didn't look or sound like anything on MTV. I actually think I was pretty lucky.

Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out was one of those albums I picked up sometime in the mid-nineties. I didn't have any great epiphany during that first listen. No "a-ha!" moment, just a subtle sense of recognition: here were three women who were my age, dressed like me, and sang about all the bullshit banging around in my head. Oh yeah, and they could play their asses off.

But none of it felt new to me. I mean, I was already there. The artists who stripped away my sense of who I was and replaced it with something better came before all that - Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, Grace Jones, Siouxsie Sioux, and X's Exene Cervenka. The template was already in place. It just needed a bit of an update.

1 comment:

  1. After reading that, it looks like I'm saying Dig Me Out is just a good record, but virtually meaningless on a larger scale, which isn't what I meant at all.

    There are a number of important records that I built up in my head before hearing them, and was ultimately disappointed. This wasn't one of them, but in some way a lot of the music from that era didn't quite live up to its expectations (in my mind), and I feel guilty or like a bad feminist.