Throwback Review | Sleater-Kinney Take Rock To New Heights on Dig Me Out

On their third album in as many years, Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss took the lo-fi indie rock sound pioneered by the likes of Bikini Kill, Sonic Youth and themselves just a few years earlier and pushed it to previously unimaginable heights – all without losing the homespun, scrappy charm that had defined the genre’s most charming music.

Dig Me Out is the sound of three woman liberating themselves from the shackles placed on them by society. Like many female rockers in the 90s, who were existing within a notoriously sexist industry, their music is heavier than much of that being made by their male counter-parts at the time. The always propulsive guitars, and out-of-this-world drumming by Weiss – as well as Tucker and Brownstein’s loud and power, yet trembling, vocals make the stakes of Dig Me Out always feel nothing less than life or death.

On “Heart Factory” – a sort of spiritual cousin to Hole’s “Doll Parts” – Tucker and Brownstein sing about objectification, with equal parts defiance and genuinely heart-crushing vulnerability: “Find me out / I’m not just made of parts”. In the 25 years since it’s release, and with the advent of social media bringing new horrific dimensions to the objectification of women, the song’s message feels horribly prescient, yet tragically timeless.

Meanwhile, on “Little Babies” – the lead single and perhaps catchiest song here – the trio delightfully skewer societal expectations of women, fit with Rolling Stones quotes and cries of “dum dum dee dee dum dum dee dum do”. Perhaps the emotional centrepiece, however, of Dig Me Out is “The Drama You’ve Been Craving”; a condemnation of a hyper-capitalist society that forces it’s citizens to work themselves to death. Over hurried arrangements, Tucker and Brownstein engage in a frantic, frenzied back and forth (“The clock I’m punching in (I’m a monster) / Work till I can’t give (I’m a machine)”). It sounds genuinely frightening and dystopian.

Just as adept as they are at tackling our corporatist, patriarchal hellscape, the trio are equally good at working on a micro basis; blowing up moments of intimacy and desire until the stakes feel terrifyingly high. “Oh God, let me in, there’s nowhere else to go” they cry on the definitive title-track. Confronting the final moments of a relationship, Tucker and Brownstein argue back and forth on “One More Hour” (“I needed it!”, “I know, I know!)

Magically, in spite of all this, Dig Me Out is a damn good time! It’s stuffed with killer hooks and ear-worm choruses that, more than anything I’ve ever listened to before, feel like they are directly wired up to the part of the brain that releases serotonin. Dig Me Out feels good in the same way screaming at the top of your lungs, with no care who hears feels good – it’s an album of unparalleled catharsis. In a world that perpetually told people like Tucker and Brownstein – both LGBTQ+ women – that their anger was undesirable at best, and invalid at worst, Dig Me Out stands as a raised middle finger to anyone whose ever told anyone else to make themselves smaller or conform to a norm that doesn’t fit them. On Dig Me Out, Tucker, Brownstein and Weiss stomp through 13 tracks at electrifying speed, with steel toe-capped force; creating in the process the fullest possible realisation of Kathleen Hanna’s legendary riot grrrl manifesto from six years earlier.

Score: 10.0

Best Tracks: All

Worst Tracks: None

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