So, one of the key aspects of this protagonist Thorn that I’m writing about is that she has a powerful voice. Powerful in a dual way – both amazingly moving and seductive, and also physically powerful, meaning she can burn things right up. When I first started on my epic journey of working on my book, conveying the importance of music to this girl seemed crucial. Now that I’m working within a concept of different universes, I’ve traveled away from the idea of Thorn decorating her closet room with pictures of Neko Case and Beth Gibbons. But, the raw vitality of a strong voice singing lyrics that matter remains at the heart of Thorn’s story.
I was reminded of this when I listened to Wild Flag’s new album – Wild Flag being a super group of sorts, composed of women from previous bands, most notably Sleater-Kinney. The first song, “Romance,” sums up almost perfectly how I envision Thorn’s voice and the importance sound and song will play for her: “Hey, can you feel it? The way it sways you,/The hum in your chest?/” And then a darker turn: “Can’t stop the bleeding or this leaving/Though I’ve tried/And when I return, with those fresh burns/You’re waiting inside.”
So after listening to the Wild Flag album for a while I naturally revisited Sleater-Kinney. This band represented grrl-power to me for a very long time, but I hadn’t listened to them in forever. I turned to their 1997 album first. Those strains of “Dig Me Out” took me right back to a time when I shook my head unabashedly to the beat: “dig me out/dig me in/outta this mess baby outta my head.” Oh, Sleater-Kinney – a lethal combination of astute lyrics, powerful guitar, and the surging voice of Corin Tucker.
My favorite Sleater-Kinney album for many years has been One Beat. All the songs are familiar, like a worn-out sweater I’ve turned to again and again. What draws me in is not only how Corin Tucker sings, but what she’s singing – the lyrics bore right in, driven home by Tucker’s voice. And again and again, there’s the underlined importance of music, moving to the force of the thrum. From the song “One Beat” – “I’m a bubble in a sound wave/A sonic push for energy/Exploding like the sun….Could you invent a world for me/I need to hear a symphony Oh oh.” From “Step Aside” – “When I feel worn out when I feel beaten/Like a used up shoe or a cake half-eaten/There’s only one way to keep on feeling/Move it up one time.”
If Thorn has only a small portion of the power of these ladies, she’s going to be quite a force of nature.