Sleater-Kinney: Call the Doctor

Call the Doctor
Call the Doctor
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: Chainsaw
Producer: John Goodmanson
Release Year: 1996
Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

Layered and angry and somehow both messy and completely controlled, it feels like a high-pitched, swirling cry to the heavens. For someone up there to rain fire on this earth. Riotttttttt Girllllll. Fuck yeah! The album has 0% chill, even in its most chill moments. Released only two years after Hole’s Live Through This, and trading on some of the underlying energy, it is way more punk. And not pop punk, mind you, but like the real deal in the most grating, but wonderful, way. It’s not an easy listen — but a rewarding one. Especially in the context of 1996.

I think some of the female-led bands back in those days paid lip service to a different type of music. The Muffs’ 1995 awesome album, Blonder and Blonder was punk, but in the most traditional sense. Call the Doctor and Sleater-Kinney weren’t just a big throw-backy power-chord punk and shredding screams, but were crafting a very specific sound and type of music that was uniquely female. Not feminine, but definitely not anything their male counterparts were doing. Or could do. You heard it and you knew it.

The first time I listened to this record back then, I was both repulsed and blown away. When the cat squalls hit my eardrums in the back of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone,” it was both pain and ecstasy. When you hear lead singer, Corin Tucker, hit that same torturous pitch over and over again, you feel relief that she can’t possibly do it again on the next track because no human could possibly keep that shit up without blowing a blood vessel. But there she is. Pummeling your face with her voice, while the trio’s double-guitar attack (no bass!) needles you, and the drums tumble and clank like a garbage truck hitting constant potholes. And the occasional pile of empty tin cans. Pre Janet Weiss Sleater-Kinney is wild.

Raw, edgy and rule-free the album really explores what it means to be punk. It kind of took the Pacific Northwest of the grunge era, threw out the rule book and said we’re just gonna do what we feel. And if that isn’t that the ethos of punk, what is? Honestly they became more traditionally “musical” after this record. Which is a maturity thing on the one hand. And maybe an expectation thing on the other. Whatever the case, we will always have this album to mark a very specific period of time in alt rock where you could still try shit without a net and succeed on your own terms.