Many bands get credit for influencing other bands. How many times have the Velvet Underground been cited as helping frustrated suburbanites decide to form seminal bands? In the case of New York no wave pioneers Ut, either through their ethics or more often through their sound, they paved an almost invisible trail for almost every great alternative band of the ’90s through to the present day. It may be that, at least for most contemporary fans, they get their kudos from being mentioned in that Le Tigre song, but way before that call out they’ve been hyped by assorted great and goods.
Sleater Kinney owe a debt both in sound and style and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth has often admitted that in her band’s early years the only aspiration they had was to catch up with Ut. Not only did they catch up, but, by let’s say referencing the girls’ song structures, they built a 20 album plus career. Ut only managed four, along with various self released singles. That’s not to say that in their absence they’ve shied away from music. All three members have continued to perform in various guises, often almost ignoring their own legacy. When they initially reformed in 2010, there was a worry that along with contemporaries Teenage Jesus and The Jerks, it could all be a cash cow affair.
Thankfully, watching them struggling through some minor technical difficulties to play these bruised, brooding and heartfelt songs is a breathtaking experience that many of us thought was lost to the ether.
Upon their formation in 1978 they were a heady antidote to the manufactured girl groups of the time (The Runaways, et al ) hailing instead from the underground art world and taking a democratic approach to writing and performing, one which thankfully still stands true three decades later. They each somehow provide their own strengths to the numbers, whether it’s Jacqui’s skittish fury, Sally’s womanly grace or Nina’s studied aloofness. Opening track Swallow from 1987’s debut In Gut’s House is a case in point. Ferocious and tender in equal measure, the band take no prisoners, pounding on their instruments with whatever they have to hand, be it drumsticks, steel picks or just their fists. They may dress like mums but they rock like banshees.
Possibly the best part of the show was the potentially sarcastic moment singer Sally Young informed the rapt audience that the next number would be the grinding Canker, off their newest record, released a mere 24 years previously. The other highlight comes after some rowdy heckling from an impatient fan when they play Wailhouse (again from 1989’s phenomenal Griller LP) and bassist/drummer/singer Nina Canal actually bellows like a whale. It could be an embarrassing moment for all involved, but her pained moans against the wall of noise around her are the sounds of experimentation, fearlessness and freedom. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another couple of decades to hear more.