This feels like the perfect music-memoir, or musician’s memoir – since you get the emotional baggage around the band, the development of the artist, the aims and ambitions, from naivety through to the second-wind of a reunion run. But we’re not bogged down with too much analysis, we’re also left, as readers, to fill in the blanks.
How you could go about explaining the chemistry – the alchemy, as it were – of Sleater-Kinney, of what happens, of how that magic arrives when the twin guitars of Brownstein and Corrin Tucker wind and weave and the no-frills, all class, all-power rock’n’roll drumming of Janet Weiss hits down to find the middle ground, to define it…well, no one can accurately explain how that magic comes into play, or into place, because it is exactly that: magic. It’s reassuring to feel that one of the co-creators of that sound know that too, doesn’t try to put a label on it.
This is a book about the deep feelings and hard labour of working the road. The album/tour cycle through the 90s and early 00s and about the making up, after breaking up of this band. A band that included some very close interpersonal relationships, a band that made some incredible music, a band that was stuck answering those inane – what’s it like to be an all-girl band-type questions; some kind of prize huh?
As with Kim Gordon’s recent memoir Brownstein’s book discusses frustrations, airs grievances, explains difficulties but never comes across like a whinge or a whine, that’s largely due to the confidence and skill in the writing. This is engaging, intriguing, beguiling – but always assured, a superbly crafted memoir, a real examination of what it means to be a performer, and a writer, and how those things are different, how they require different channels, different personalities – and how all of it is a huge, hard test. But one that can bring rewards, one that is – largely – its own reward.
Perhaps if you arrived at Brownstein via Portlandia you could be disappointed with this book – for it’s really a book about Sleater-Kinney, about being in a band – about what happens to a person to shape them into a musician. It’s not about comedy or TV, it barely mentions the (wonderful) world of Portlandia.
I’m not sure I’ve ever read a better music memoir, the grasp of self here, the honesty around frustrations. It’s also funny, and sad – some wonderful, evocative turns of phrase.
I started to read this book late last year, pre-Christmas, and I put it on the backburner because I didn’t want it to end. Oddly, I read this book in two goes, several months apart – that was my only way of not reading it all in one go. I had to create that space. To make a gap. It lost nothing as a result. In fact I’m sure I’ll return to it for another read-through. I really loved it.