Sleater-Kinney are a definitive band of the late 90s. Often they’re lumped in with the ‘riot grrrl’ scene that served as a backdrop for their formation. However, Sleater-Kinney have always been musically inquisitive and unafraid to break moulds; not to be boxed in to any one scene or genre. Their album Dig Me Out is perhaps their most critically acclaimed. Released in 1997, it sold well for an underground indie-punk record and became a critical darling. It placed 13th in the Rolling Stone’s 2016 list of the greatest punk albums of all time. Nevertheless, in popular discourse on great 1990s records, Dig Me Out is largely forgotten in the shadows of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Oasis and Radiohead.
Dig Me Out was a turning point for the band as it launched them into a new phase of their career, garnering media and critical attention and cementing their place in every rock critic’s musical lexicon. Yet, they still remained underground heroes. Dig Me Out is the band’s 3rd album and the first appearance of drummer Janet Weiss, whose musical intelligence and muscular, primal drumming style helped to shape the band’s sound into what it is known for today. The record is their most melodic to date and is certainly one of their most personal records.
From the infectiously raucous and deceptively simple ‘Little Babies’ to indie-ballad ‘Jenny’ with its ambiguous, haunting lyrics, Dig Me Out is reflective and emotive, but doesn’t deliver its message to you on a platter. The exception to this, is perhaps ‘One More Hour’, a painfully vulnerable break up song written by Tucker following her break-up with bandmate Carrie Brownstein. In Brownstein’s autobiography Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, she described how the recording process of Dig Me Out was an uncomfortable but cathartic experience for them both. The song also contains one of Brownstein’s best guitar riffs to date, the kind that sticks in your head for the rest of the day.
While other Sleater-Kinney records are laden with social and political commentary, this one deals mostly with love and loss. The back and forth dialogue between Tucker and Brownstein’s guitars and lively vocals teamed with the noticeable absence of bass guitar made them stand out in a year of rock dominated by masculine solo vocals and heavy bass riffs (think Foo Fighters’ Colour and the Shape or Deftones’ Around the Fur). The punchy dynamic that Sleater-Kinney perfected on Dig Me Out has influenced countless bands that came after like Grass Widow, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Kills. Yet, when asked about seminal or definitive 90s albums, rock critics aside, most people have completely overlooked this classic album.