Jun 232009

Sleater-Kinney came up on the iPod today, and once again I had the same internal conflict that arises every time I hear them. I love the guitar playing, the songs, the drumming, the arrangements, the production, the guitar tones, and the overall sound. Plus, I love rooting for an underdog so a three-chick rock band with no bassist holding their own in a dude-heavy genre appeals to me. But I just can’t seem to make my peace with that voice.

On the old RTH, I recall someone suggesting that the reason some of us couldn’t handle the voice was because we were uncomfortable with strong women or some such nonsense. But I don’t think that’s the case. The voice sounds like Geddy Lee’s shrill younger sister to me. And I can’t stand his voice either.

I’m not giving up on them just yet because the good is really good, and I’m hoping this is one of those acquired taste things. But I’m not optimistic that I will be able to get over the hump on this.

Does anybody else have a band/artist that is otherwise perfect for them, but for a huge and possibly deal-breaking flaw?

As an aside, there’s also a great Last Man Standing here: Intra-band hook ups. Hell, Grace Slick could keep that going for weeks. SK would have been my trump card.


  28 Responses to “Sleater-Kinney…But For That Voice”

  1. I’m sure it’s a major faux pas to be the first to respond ot your own post but I have to say that the vocals in the video that the Mod posted are a-okay.

    I was think more of musically awesome stuff like Combat Rock:

    and Far Away

    and What’s Mine is Yours

  2. 2000 Man

    I think if you go backwards with Sleater/Kinney “that voice” may be easier to get used to. The Woods is so damned good that even Geddy Lee could have sang it and it would have been okay. Bob Plant could have sang it and I would have taken notice. I think the lyrics are exceptional, the playing is top notch and it may be the hardest, heaviest thing that’s happened in this brave new century of ours. If I had to pick an album of the decade, I’m sure that would be the one I’d name right off the top of my head.

    Prior to The Woods, I thought they were pretty good, but I know where you’re coming with trying to get your head around that voice. I find it easier to listen to their older stuff now that I’ve got such an appreciation of The Woods.

    For me, the immediate deal breaker is Robert Plant. Musically Zeppelin is bombastic and over the top, but I’m usually okay with that. There’s plenty of guitar firepower, and the bass is solid. I’m not as impressed with Bonham’s drumming as some people, but not annoyed by it. But Plant is fingernails on a blackboard. He’s an absolute deal breaker. He sings about stupid stuff and he sounds terrible doing it. When people find out what I like, they wonder why I don’t like Zeppelin, and I can see why. Musically they do most of what I like at least as well as a lot of bands I love do it.

    I’d love to figure out exactly what it is that makes me dislike Bad Co. so. I liked Free, so it’s not Paul Rogers’ voice. I liked Mott the Hoople well enough, so it’s not Mick Ralphs. The bass player from King Crimson couldn’t have added THAT much suck, could he?

  3. pudman13

    I like the voice. Sometimes a shrill voice does wonders for me. The problem I have is the lack of bass.

    The kind of voice that turns me off is the kind of macho growl that lots of hard rock (and in particular blues-rock and southern rock) has. Totally kills it for me.

  4. Mr. Moderator

    I’m sorry I picked such a vocal-friendly example, cdm. You’re right. I think of their vocals along the lines of Feargal Sharkey’s. I like how he sings like he’s got a bottle rocket shoved up his ass, and whoever’s singing for S-K comes off the same way to my ears.

  5. BigSteve

    The vocals for S-K always reminded me of the female equivalent of Jello Biafra minus the irony.

  6. Mr. Moderator

    I used to be turned off by Robert Plant’s voice until realizing that it’s actually perfect for their music – his lyrics too!

    As documented in a post dedicated to the topic, Bon Scott’s voice and lyrics prevent me from embracing AC/DC’s music to the extent that I would if they had, say, Steve Marriott as their lead singer and lyric writer. Too bad they couldn’t have had The Easybeats’ singer.

  7. 2000 Man

    I like Bon Scott. I think he’s really the only thing I liked about AC/DC. The rest of the guys just seemed to be his band, and nothing they’ve done with the new guy makes me think different.

    Another band I can think of would be Lynyrd Skynyrd. I know why I don’t like Gimme Three Steps, it sounds like hoe down music with a barroom story that one wouldn’t expect in most hoe down songs. But I’ve been trying to like more stuff, and I have to admit that it’s probably more their fans I’ve met that turned me off to them than the band. I should be able to overcome that, and I don’t expect to love every song someone does, so I think I’ll be able to add Lynyrd Skynyrd to my good list some day.

  8. mockcarr

    I think I would like the Smiths if Morrissey’s voice were a little different and the melodies he chose had more to do with the chords being played.

  9. BigSteve

    I can’t stand Willie Nelson’s voice. I admire him as a songwriter, a performer, an icon, a symbol, and activist, etc. I just hate hearing him sing.

    A voice is a very personal thing, and some you’re going to love, and some you’re just not going to be able to deal with. Take of the wife/husband/gf/bf/paramour of your persuasion, and think about how much the sound of that person’s voice has to do with your feelings for them. Musicians and/or music geeks may be more susceptible to this factor than others, but maybe not. And some of you can probably think of someone you were interested in, based on his her Look, personality, interests, etc., but you just couldn’t stand their voice. It happens.

  10. “I can’t stand Willie Nelson’s voice.”

    Big Steve, I never saw that one coming.

  11. BigSteve

    Yeah, I’ve got to watch where I admit that. In Texas saying such a thing is punishable by hanging.

  12. I can’t stand Peter Buck’s mandolin.

    I used to love Michael Stipe’s voice in the pre “Green” era; it was lower but he was still singing sharp (eg: “These Days”). Now his voice is sharp but too high. It used to make it for me, now it ruins it.

  13. Stipe’s voice is one that no longer works for me, either. I attribute it more to a difference in how he’s mixed these days than a change in his actual tone.

    I blame “Everybody Hurts.” They had a huge hit when Michael dropped the mumbling and the esoteric lyrics and sang clearly about what he meant.

    And ever since, I feel like he’s a little too on the nose lyrically and much too front and center in the mix.

    Bon Scott is God, by the way. And Willie Nelson is Jesus.

  14. Also…

    The voice sounds like Geddy Lee’s shrill younger sister to me. And I can’t stand his voice either.

    What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy.

  15. Mr. Moderator

    Just the other night I saw Geddy Lee and Alex Liefson (sp?) on that heavy metal talk show I wrote up recently. I was also interested in hearing Lee’s speaking voice, but Liefson did all the talking.

    BigSteve, I like what you say about the power of the speaking voice when it comes to loved (and liked) ones. I love the sound of my wife’s voice, and I’m aware of the fact that her cadence, I guess it would be called, is similar to the cadence of many women’s voices that have attracted me.

    Many many moons ago I dated a Southern woman, which was really strange for me. She had a strong Southern accent (somewhere in Virginia, to be specific), which always threw me off a bit and sounded cartoonish. It wasn’t until I broke up with her that I heard her voice for what it really was and had a better idea of who she really was that the Southern woman’s accent sounded real and worth hearing.

    On the other hand I dated a woman with a really strong Philly accent, and although I’m a native Philadelphian with a touch of a Philly accent myself, that accent was hard to take for long periods of time. It was like dating a cousin.

  16. I find the Philly accent to be really rough on the ears and really tough to mimic. I’m not sure how I dodged the bullet because I have relative who have it.

  17. mockcarr

    Same thing with the New Jersey accent for me. I actually didn’t hear it very often growing up, outside of mallrats and tough guys, and I never acquired it.

  18. What about the voice of Geddy Lee? How did it get so high? I wonder if he speaks like an ordinary guy.

    Sourbob, I know him, he does. You’re my fact checkin’ cuz.

    I couldn’t leave you hanging on that one.


  19. Thanks, TB!

  20. Re Geddy Lee, I think it’s important to remember that many heavy metal bands of the 70s took their vocal cues from Robert Plant, emphasizing the high-pitched shrieks and wails but rarely able to emulate the greater range of his tone. A lot of people hate how he sounds but he’s usually a much better singer than the others who copied him.

    Like it or not–I kinda do, but I grew up in that era–it’s an incredibly dated vocal tone now. Easy to mark its time as the white spats and cravat vocal style of 20s and 30s jazz that Louis Armstrong destroyed.

    This is all obvious, I’m sure, but the point is that Geddy Lee’s vocals are a tactical decision from a now long gone era, and it’s a decision that sure helped his band make a lot of money.

  21. saturnismine

    Just poppin’ in to say: i love RTH.

  22. I’ve got a bunch of *almost* deal- breaker vocalists, but most of them fall just short of me saying “No deal”.

    I used to have a big problem with Plant’s voice, as I, too, am allergic to the screechy, high-pitched male singers, but as time went on, I realized that it wasn’t ALL like that with Percy, & now I think he’s pretty good. Jim Morrison, on the other hand, had a deep voice, but now he just sounds to me like the pompous ass he so often was, but so does the rest of the band.

    Corin Tucker’s voice was definitely a little off-putting to me at the beginning, but I got acclimated to it quickly enough. Geddy Lee, not so much. Ever. But, I don’t like anything about their music, so he can’t be singled out as a deal breaker. BTW Mod, it’s ‘Lifeson’, not that it really matters, it’s Rush for crissake!

    Also, as much as I love The Who, which is a whole bunch, Daltrey’s post Tommy Rock God Bellow, sometimes rubs me the wrong way. Not ALL the time, mind you, but enough to comment on it. But they’re the fookin’ ‘Oo, & I will always love ’em, warts & all (I speak, of course, of the original 4 members; after that it wasn’t The Who anymore, as far as I was concerned).

    Another in the arena of sometimes, but not always, for me is Exene Cervenka of X. I think it works most of the time, but sometimes it sounds to me like someone swinging a bag of cats.

    Hell, even the likes of Andy Partridge (too self-consciously quirky) & Elvis Costello (especially when he tries to stretch it out, & over-sing)can irritate at times, but in general aren’t enough to outweigh the greatness of the music as a whole.

    Oh, & Thom Yorke of Radiohead. Then again, I don’t get their appeal in general, so I suppose I can’t single him out as the deal breaker.

  23. Mr. Moderator

    Good ones, bobbybittman! I’ve grown to kind of like Morrison’s bellow in the right circumstances. Yorke’s voice on the other hand, annoys me, but like you with S-K, I don’t know how much of a deal there is to be broken in the first place.

  24. I suspect that you guys were concerned, so here’s the update:

    I’ve listened to One Beat and The Woods for about 4 days straight now and I think I have made my peace with the voice. I credit Roller Coaster with being the song where it all started making sense.

    Now I just can’t seem to stop listening to it…

  25. 2000 Man

    I’m glad it got you! Rollercoaster is infectious. I think “that voice” works like a charm on Jumpers when she sings, “Don’t push me I am not okay.” I sure believe it anyway. I’ve loved a lot of albums that have come out this decade, but that’s the one I love the most. Whenever I play it, I tend to play it for weeks on end.

  26. Jumpers is cool too. When I say I don’t like “that voice”, I’m not talking about her voice all the time I guess. Just when it gets real high and warbley. And with the way things are going, I’ll probably be okay with that in a day or two.

  27. Mod, I think you misunderstood me a little. I like Sleater Kinney, I just found her voice a bit off-putting at first(BTW, I don’t know if “You’re No Rock & Roll Fun” is the best example of the more grating aspects of Ms. Tucker’s voice). It was Rush & Radiohead I cited as not really having the vocals as a deal breaker, because I don’t like anything about either band’s music. Just wanted to clarify.

  28. Mr. Moderator

    I got you now, Bobby. Thanks. In that case, I’m simply with you on Radiohead.

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