While searching to see whether I had ever posted songs about Thanksgiving or being thankful, I realized that I never posted my review of the Carrie Brownstein autobiography. Carrie Brownstein is known both as one of the members of the trio Sleater-Kinney and as the female lead in Portlandia. If you are looking for a memoir centered around her time on Portlandia, this is not it. The show gets a couple of fleeting references, but “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl” is very much centered around her early life and her career in Sleater-Kinney.
The book talks about her family life growing up, how her mother had anorexia and her father later discovered that he was homosexual. Brownstein brings both of these facts relevancy when discussing her own feelings while on the road with the band.
What I had not realized before reading the book was that the band started in Australia, where they found the drummer for their first and self-titled album. I also did not know that their guitars were not in a standard tuning, but were rather tuned to Corin Tucker’s vocals, which is part of what made them sound different from other similarly-minded bands.
What I found interesting was that, even after their albums were met with critical acclaim, even after they were courted by several of the larger independent labels, they continued to tour in a van and largely load/unload their own equipment at shows. It was only on their tour for their final album, The Woods, that they graduated to tour buses and having people who worked for them.
One criticism I did have about the book was more of expectation than anything else. One of my favorite songs is “Modern Girl”, which is from where the title of the book came. As the book progressed toward the recording process for The Woods, the album on which it appears, I was hoping to read about the events in Brownstein’s life that led her to write the incredible verses contained within the song, perhaps to provide insight into her own personal interpretation of the lines. Instead, the song doesn’t even get a mention within the pages of the book. I felt let down by not being given insight into that part of song writing prowess.
My favorite part of the book, and I’m glad the moment got caught on film, was when Brownstein was describing Eddie Vedder opening up for Sleater-Kinney on their final show before their hiatus. Below is a transcription of his speech regarding where he places Sleater-Kinney in the pantheon of rock music, including Vedder’s trademark muttering:
“You know some people, they grow up thinking, I may have thought this growing up too, but you know I wish I would have been around to see The Beatles live, I wish I could have seen Hendrix, I wish I could have seen Led Zeppelin, the Pistols, The Who with Keith Moon…but, um, I’m very fortunate and I still am grateful to have lived in a time where I could see Sleater-Kinney.”
As I said several months ago, during my review of the second of what became three concerts at the Showbox at the Market, I never got to see Sleater-Kinney during their original run. I knew their songs, but I was a poor high school/college kid, I had a family young and was only just starting to have spare money enough to see the occasional show when they ended their initial run. I am very fortunate that they decided to re-boot and give the world new music, a high profile tour, and that I got to see them. There are very few bands left on my “must see” list, but Sleater-Kinney got crossed off my list.