Little Rope by Sleater-Kinney album review by Leslie Ken Chu for Northern Transmissions. The band's full-length drops on January 19th


Litle Rope

Sleater - Kinney

On Sleater-Kinney’s 11th album Little Rope, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker try to dig themselves out of the unbearable weight of grief. In the autumn of 2022, Brownstein’s mother and stepfather died in a car accident. After this tragedy turned her world upside down and inside out, Brownstein found herself retreating into the familiar comfort and stability of playing guitar. Recalling this period, she said she played guitar more than ever, at least since she was in her early 20s. Brownstein’s loss, and Tucker’s experience in supporting her bandmate of 19 years throughout it, has resulted in the band’s heaviest, messiest album in years, both sonically and emotionally.

Little Rope is preoccupied with atemporality and feeling stuck in time and place. After all, when swallowed by grief and left feeling like you have no control of anything in life, it’s natural for all sense of the past and future to fade away, to only be aware of the present moment. “Hell don’t have no future / Hell don’t have no past,” Tucker sings on the blown out “Hell.” And on “Say It Like You Mean It”: “Lie gently with me / All clocks have stopped / … / No bitter endings / And no false starts.”

Sleater-Kinney are forever changed by tragedy on Little Rope. They often appear to surrender to despair, but they refuse to let it break them, to define them. “Looking at me like a problem to solve / Like a untidy creature that you can’t push around / You built a cage but your measurements wrong / I’ll find a way, I’ll pick your lock,” Tucker sings, comparing herself to a caged animal, on the defiant, booming “Untidy Creature.”

Little Rope is loaded with fuel-injected rock anthems. “Six Mistakes” wallops like a wrecking ball. “Needlessly Wild” is a shaky ride that leaks gasoline. But Little Rope contains contours, too, spacious, atmospheric padding thanks in part to Grammy Award-winning producer John Congleton, whom Sleater-Kinney worked with for the first time on this album. After all, loss creates a void, a blank space where all our worst, most insecure thoughts and feelings of insignificance can fester and run rampant.

In another act of resistance against the debilitating effects of grief, Tucker lists activities on “Don’t Feel Right” that remind herself and others that she exists: going for a drive, reading poems, cooking. Sometimes, this also means keeping up basic personal maintenance: “Get up girl / And dress yourself / In clothes you love / For a world you hate.”

Whatever Sleater-Kinney do to get themselves out of the woods of despair, they’re taking their time, going at their own pace. “I need time to move slow / … / Don’t push me now / … / Don’t come around, I’m a real let down,” Tucker sings on “Dress Yourself” Healing is a process of laying down boundaries with themselves and their loved ones. It requires patience from everyone, no matter how tangentially they’re involved.

Sleater-Kinney yearn for a little rope so they don’t slip farther into the pitch black pit of despair. On their latest album, it’s clear that they’ve gotten enough of a grip to pull themselves up.

Pre-order Little Rope by Sleater-Kinney Here


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