Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book: Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein (Riverbed Books, 2015)

Carrie Brownstein is a musician best known for her work in the legendary punk rock band Sleater-Kinney, but she has worn many hats from student to animal shelter activist and now writer. The book begins with a recollection of her adolescence, and like many people (myself included) she was able to find solace and freedom in the transformative power of music. Her mother was chronically ill and eventually split the families and she began going to shows, learning guitar and forming a band. The northwest was a hotbed not only of music with Nirvana leading the way, but also had courageous and groundbreaking female bands lumped under the "riot grrll" tag like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. Meeting her future bandmate Corin Tucker at a show was a revelation and led her to move to Olympia, Washington and the formation of Sleater-Kinney. They made their first album in Australia all places and then then returned to the US using a number of different drummers before finding Janet Weiss who completed the trio. The rest of the book is a whirlwind tour of each album the band made from the recording in the studio through touring and personal issues every musician must face during long and grinding tours. Brownstein had it worse than most, suffering from a serious back ailment, shingles, depression and self-harm. She is a very sensitive person and the music clearly drained her until things finally came to a halt after touring for their 2006 album The Woods. This book is solely devoted to her upbringing and musical career so their is no coverage of her popular sketch comedy television show Portlandia. It is devoted to Sleater-Kinney as well, no there is no mention of the short lived supergroup Wild Flag she formed with Mary Timony. The book ends just as their reunion is getting started and the recording session begin in full with everybody trying to keeping things a secret. There turned out to be no need as their reunion brought forth one of their finest LPs and superb live shows. This was a very well written book and it lifts the curtain on the rock 'n' roll lifestyle - not as glamorous as it may seem, practicing in dingy basements, sleeping on peoples floors all in the name of their extraordinary music.Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl - amazon.com

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