In late 1996, things couldn’t have been better for Sleater-Kinney. The punk trio had released two rough and ready albums that were beginning to break through the riot-grrrl underground into more mainstream rock audiences. With new powerhouse drummer Janet Weiss, the band were recording what would be their first classic LP, 1997’s Dig Me Out. The band were even given a major feature in the influential alternative magazine SPIN.
What follows is a cautionary tale for both artists and writers that’s only become more potent in the 25 years since its occurrence: without permission from either one, the article’s author outed band members Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker as having previously had a romantic relationship.
Considered a major invasion of privacy, the musicians lost control of their own narrative while the author lost the trust and credibility they had established with the band. It was a watershed moment that demonstrated how big Sleater-Kinney were about to become and how the increased spotlight could be harsh and damaging.
‘One More Hour’ wasn’t written explicitly about the SPIN article, but it nevertheless provides a foundation for which Tucker decided to deal with the heartbreak and confusion of her past with Brownstein. Vague enough to translate her experiences in a poetic fashion but incisive enough to cut deep when you know what to listen for, Tucker goes right for the heart when she belts out, “Don’t say another word/ About the other girl”, her voice quivering with intensity and jealousy as her angst boils over into a full emotional release.
A major appeal of Sleater-Kinney is how they can blend discordant riffs and disjointed rhythms into beautifully tattered compositions. These songs can often take aim against patriarchal norms, repression, malignant sexism, and gender oppression. Still, it’s when the band turns inward and talks about their own experiences that create some of the most memorable and impactful material that the band can produce.
‘One More Hour’ is that kind of personal interrogation. “If you could talk, what would you say?/ For you things were just night and day.” Had the SPIN writer known that those lyrics were coming on their next album, they would have had a field day. But now that time has sanded off some of the sharper edges of regret and anger, the song takes the form of a cathartic and decisive endpoint, leaving open the ability to forgive and move on instead of continuously stay hurt.
The connection between Brownstein and Tucker was strong enough to survive any crumbling romantic relationship, and the two continue as Sleater-Kinney to this day.
The intrigue and drama of their past has thankfully faded to the status of a footnote in the band’s long and storied history, but for a brief moment on the cusp of fame, Sleater-Kinney were able to turn their personal dramas and professional traumas into meaningful punk rock art.