On the 20th anniversary of the release of Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out I’ve got on to wondering what the ingredients are that make up an all-time favourite album. Dig Me Out would undoubtedly make my Desert Island Discs list, in fact I can say with confidence that even if I could only choose one record to keep me sane while stranded in solitude it would most likely be this one. Choosing favourites is a fickle business and it can change from one listen to the next but Dig Me Out has been omnipresent in my life for 20 years now. Why?
Perhaps it’s simply the songs themselves, that’s the most obvious place to start. Dig Me Out’s title track shocks this record into life, it’s abrasive, furious guitar intro is unforgettable and sounds just as compelling now as it ever did, but it’s not about any one song. A sure sign of a favourite album is the realisation that at any given time your favourite song on it could be any one of them. More often than not it’s simply the last one you’ve heard.
Corin Tucker’s voice could definitely be the reason, it’s certainly the reason for endless sore throats when trying to sing along. I’ve often read her voice described as polarising, a reason some people don’t like Sleater-Kinney. Its caustic qualities are perfect on this record as it swells with anger and quivers with heartbreak or celebrates the joy of rock n’ roll on ‘Words & Guitar’. Would it have the same effect without the presence of Carrie Brownstein? This question leads directly to another potential reason, and what makes Sleater-Kinney such a special band. The dynamic between Corin and Carrie, the way their vocals interlock and their guitars entwine, weaving their way through every song together. Neither ever seems to take the lead, it’s a symbiotic sound that creates incredible rock music, one simply couldn’t exist without the other. I think this is truer of Dig Me Out than any other record I can name.
Maybe it’s down to time and place? In 1997 I was studying in Glasgow, playing in a band, going to gigs constantly and buying a lot of records. Glasgow was (and is) a great city for anyone obsessed with bands and records, most touring bands would play the city and the local scene was packed with brilliant bands like Yummy Fur, Lung Leg and bis as well as what was going on with the Chemikal Underground label and various others. I was in my element and completely receptive to new music. When Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out tour rolled into town my band was lucky enough to open for them which was thrilling and no doubt a strong reason why this album has been such a big part of my life.
The emotions captured and the lyrics and meanings in a song or album are extremely likely to be a reason it becomes such an integral part of someone’s life. I’m not convinced this is the case for me with Dig Me Out. It’s a fiercely angry record for the most part, it’s feminist rallying cry is clearer to me now than it was then. I was as happy and laid back as it gets when this record first came into my world. I don’t think I knew what anger really was. What did strike me was the emotion behind the sound more than the lyrics, I love the aggression of a song like ‘It’s Enough’ and the utter devastation of ‘One More Hour’.
Whatever the reasons for Dig Me Out being my favourite record are, or for whatever your favourite record is, the most important thing is to always cherish that music and the role it plays in your life. When you know explicitly every breath taken between vocals, every tiny scratch of a plectrum on a guitar string, when you can actually feel the weight of the drum sticks as they pound out beats that have become as familiar to you as your own skin you should celebrate it. Discover more about where that record came from, what other music has come from its influence and what may be still to come. As much as I love this record I’m not averse to the thought that there could be another record out there that’ll replace it as my No. 1. I’ll keep searching, hopefully you will too.
The 20th Anniversary design by Molly Schiot is available as a poster or t-shirt alongside the re-issued Dig Me Out album at Sleater-Kinney’s store