I have to admit, I understand why some people thought Sleater-Kinney sold out during the Hot Rock period - suddenly, they were more preened, less political, less angry. Still, that's a superficial judgment in many ways, and while I can't pretend that The Hot Rock will ever mean as much to me as Call the Doctor, Sleater-Kinney still have much to offer the listener - they're just selling different wares. This is a more opaque, idiosyncratic record, more inward-looking, less immediate. It's also more self-consciously arty and experimental than the previous records, which were mainly in the spirit of that old "3-chords and the Truth" punk rock ideal. The results of this metamorphosis are mixed - "Get Up" has to be one of the strangest and the most transcendent songs the band has written, with lyrics that teeter precariously toward pretension and earth-mother embarrassment, but somehow, just somehow, come across as pure beauty within the context of the music. Songs like "The Hot Rock" and "Memorize Your Lines" have a jangly, unusual charm that grows on you with each listen. "Start Together", "The End of You" and "One Song For You" are all irresistible rock songs. "The Size of Our Love" scores high in the lyrical originality stakes, although I oscillate between loving Carrie's girly coo and finding it slightly irritating.
But, but, but...why can't I embrace this as much as earlier albums? I suppose it's because I never really wanted Sleater-Kinney to make an indie art record - I didn't care about their poetic ramblings, or their sonic experiments. From them, I just wanted rawness and euphoria. But, hey, even if indie quirkiness is a dime a dozen, Sleater-Kinney's brand has its virtues, even if, for me, there's nothing on this album to rival the excoriating power of a song like "Little Mouth" or the bliss of "Turn It On."