The ones that nearly got away: Sleater-Kinney, One Beat
Until recently, One Beat was my least favorite Sleater-Kinney album.
I got on board the Sleater-Kinney bandwagon in 2000 with All Hands on the Bad One. I hadn’t yet caught up with the band’s past work when One Beat followed two years later.
I played One Beat multiple times, but I just couldn’t get into it — I was hoping it would be just as tuneful as its predecessor. My opinion on the album continued to dim when The Woods turned out to be even more ambitious than All Hands on the Bad One.
I did eventually catch up with the band’s albums. Hot Rock and Dig Me Out made me appreciate Sleater-Kinney more, but neither album made me love them. After the band went on hiatus, I didn’t really think about them, save for watching Carrie Brownstein on Portlandia.
That started to change around 2013, when I began expanding my vinyl collection. I put on All Hands on the Bad One on the media player to figure out if it would be something I’d like to hear on the record player. It was, and I realized how much I missed them.
When Sub Pop announced it would reissue the band’s catalog in 2014, it seemed the right time for Sleater-Kinney to re-emerge.
Boy, did they ever. No Cities to Love pushed me over the edge from dilettante to fan.
So I filled in the remaining gaps. Call the Doctor and the self-titled debut put All Hands on the Band One into context. All Hands is still my favorite album of theirs, but the ones preceding and following it are far edgier.
And that made me think it was time to revisit One Beat. Even though I had sold the CD, I downloaded the album from eMusic a long while back. I spun it up again, and it finally made sense.
One Beat shared more in common with Call the Doctor and Dig Me Out than it did with The Woods or All Hands on the Bad One. What I mistook for tunelessness was really the band’s regular modus operandi of fierce performances and jagged writing. It’s probably the band hardest album next to The Woods.
I dismissed One Beat wrongly because I had incomplete information. I would now place One Beat nearer the top of a ranked list of Sleater-Kinney albums. That’s a pretty large leap from rock bottom.