When Sleater-Kinney first appeared at the Black Cat several years ago, the drama of the band's performance came from the musicians' refusal to let expressiveness be fettered by limited technical skills. As the Pacific Northwest trio revealed Thursday at the same club, that's no longer an issue. Sleater-Kinney's music is still fueled by passion, but, if necessary, the band can rely on professionalism.
Halfway through the show, drummer Janet Weiss executed a drumroll that suggested Keith Moon, which guitarist Carrie Brownstein followed with a Pete Townshend-style windmill guitar strum. The juxtaposition was probably unintentional, but new songs such as "The Hot Rock" and "Get Up" and some of the older material sounded almost classic rock.
Actually, the trio hasn't lost its post-punk bearings; its music confounds rhythm and melody as ingeniously as that of such stylistic pioneers as Gang of Four. Brownstein and Corin Tucker's guitars still play circular riffs, engaging and detaching like gears in a machine, and the band's trademark remains the interplay between Tucker's high, impossibly urgent voice and Brownstein's more grounded vocals. If Sleater-Kinney's guitar sound is now so full that the lyrics are often overpowered, that hardly mattered in a sold-out club where most of the listeners seemed to know every word.