It’s an interesting month for women in rock and roll. Two huge releases are finally upon us: Marnie Stern‘s triumphant third LP and Corin Tucker‘s eponymous first post-Sleater-Kinney LP. And rather than choose one badass rock chick to highlight for VERY GLOSSY’s discerning reader, I wish to sing the praises of their common label: Kill Rock Stars. The label, born by Slim Moon (yup, that’s his name) in 1991, is based out of Olympia, WA and Portland, OR and supports artists who tend to be liberal, anti-war and often queer (or queer-friendly, at least). KRS is pretty much single-handedly responsible for the riot grrrl movement, supporting the nascent bands behind it like Heavens to Betsy, Bratmobile, and the ultimate, Bikini Kill.
Riot girrrl, if you are not familiar, is basically a feminist punk movement. It says, Listen, women can rock harder than you, even though you have balls, we have more punk attitude and you know what? We don’t need you assholes to distribute our record. We’ll do it all ourselves. In this respect, KRS was also at the fore of the now trendy DIY approach. And let’s not pretend like women weren’t rocking before KRS, they certainly were, but they weren’t queer and dirty and making punk music that many people would consider unlistenable. Anyway, let’s look at some past and present KRS bands…
Obviously Ms. Stern and Ms. Tucker are active artists on the label. Deerhoof, Gravy Train!!!!, Erase Errata, The Thermals, Linda Perry, Xiu Xiu, and The Paper Chase are all currently signees. But their alumnus lists reads like a punk’s wetdream: The Gossip, Sleater-Kinney, Team Dresch, Unwound, Elliot Smith, Huggy Bear, and the Decemberists (not a punk’s wetdream at all). Surely there are other labels that are stables for a remarkable collection of artists, and perhaps even come to represent a sound or a genre. Matador, for instance, just turned 21 and everyone’s going nuts praising them for their catalogue. But there’s something amazing about the October releases of Marnie Stern and the Corin Tucker Band that is defining my autumn.
Stern’s self-titled is a marvel of her prog metal fingering style combined with the chaotic and cathartic punk drumming of Zach Hill to deliver one serious punch to the gut. For Ash, the first single, is a marvel; tempo changes, howling, chanting and Hill’s maniacal drumming come together like nothing ever has for her previously. And while Tucker’s a mother of two now and almost forty, the S-K fans waited to see what would come of Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and that kickass drummer, Janet Weiss. Well, it was totally worth it. It’s no Dig Me Out in that there’s not a constant guttural wail or eardrum-punishing guitar shredding. It’s quiet and subdued, thoughtful, and complex. There are some moments when the listener says, Ah, yes, there’s that scream I was missing, but Tucker’s voice is so varied and nuanced, she puts it on display here like never before. The single Doubt is all that and more, and so is the other track where she uses her catterwaul warble to great effect, Riley. Good work, ladies, and good work Kill Rock Stars for keeping us on our toes.