For all the talk of hot new garage-rock bands making their way out of expensive rehearsal spaces in gentrified New York City neighborhoods, this year's most crucial artifact of scrappy guitar-bass-drums friction is the sixth album from a Portland-based band that, as its album artwork has it, practices in a tiny basement with mattresses nailed to the walls. One Beat, the latest from post-riot-grrrl rockers Sleater-Kinney, probably would have taken that cake if the band had just gone about its business in its normal way; few musicians have mastered the art of making personal strife ring with urgency like singer-guitarists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss. (The Wu-Tang Clan at its best and least paranoid, maybe.) But nothing charges a great punk-rock band like a sociopolitical calamity, and 9/11 seems to have given S-K an extra blast of purpose this time around: "Far Away," new mom Tucker's semiautobiographical account of that morning, one-ups much of Bruce Springsteen's The Rising in terms of emotional oomph; "Combat Rock" asks a couple of questions of "dirty Uncle Sam"; "Step Aside" wonders why we don't "shake a tail for peace and love" over a groove that makes it impossible not to. The songs boast lots of new sounds, too--juicy keyboards, fancy backing vocals, kicky formal tweaks--but they'll give you chills at the Gypsy Tea Room on Friday night because they're not (entirely) about riffs.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.