The veterans of early ‘90s D.C. indie are back just in time to catch the 20-year-nostalgia cycle. Just six months shy of the 20th anniversary of Helium’s debut LP, former frontwoman Mary Timony’s band Ex Hex is currently touring the country on the momentum of its new album, Rips. And today, Dischord is re-releasing punk trio Slant 6‘s 1994 album Soda Pop * Rip Off.
Born out of the ashes of Timony’s riff-y short-lived quartet Autoclave, Slant 6 gained national notoriety for its minimal post-punk. The D.C. band was vaguely associated with the riot grrrl movement, having appeared on compilations with bands like Huggy Bear and Tribe 8.
But that isn’t an entirely accurate portrayal. Though they often cohabited houses and shared stages with notable riot grrrl figures, the members of Slant 6 weren’t as grounded in social activism as other music acts they’re often lumped in with. They didn’t directly adopt the satirical or rebellious rhetoric of movement mainstays like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. Though the trio was all-female, its single-gender lineup wasn’t entirely purposeful; still, in the male-dominated, often misogynist world of punk, many assumed it was meant to make a political statement.
Notably, Soda Pop * Rip Off partially inspired an important discourse in feminism and punk rock. Slant 6 played college shows whose bookers chose the band partially because its all-female punk rock setup was “unique.” Writing for the Harvard Crimson as an undergraduate, future literary critic Steve Burt pointed out that recognizing Slant 6 as an all-female punk band and engaging with it as part of the girl-punk tradition arbitrarily segregated the band from discussions of punk as a whole. His point remains relevant today.
What gets lost in that discussion is Slant 6’s output itself. Indeed, the remaster of Soda Pop * Rip Off isn’t just a reminder of a moment in punk rock—-it also happens to be an improvement on a solid record.
Like any remaster, the differences are minute. Guitar lines sound a tad thicker, cymbal crashes sound a little cleaner. But this attention to detail distinguished Slant 6 in the first place. Frontwoman Christina Billotte’s signature Silvertone guitar made riffs and power chords sound a bit more surf-y and pleasant. Though her voice was occasionally hidden behind distorted guitars and nasal delivery, Billotte was still a better singer than many of her ‘90s contemporaries, a fact that’s perhaps more evident on the remaster. In hindsight, the band’s spartan, occasionally riff-y setup even slightly hinted at the guitar-driven math-punk that D.C. bands like Faraquet would use as their foundation.
With all the panels and documentaries on the history of D.C. punk in the works, it seems that lifer nostalgia and D.C. hardcore navel gazing won’t abate any time soon. It may be having some net positive effect; traces of Soda Pop * Rip Off can be heard in some of D.C.’s most high-profile local bands like Priests, Young Trynas and Dudes. Whether Slant 6’s members called themselves riot grrrls or just focused on the music, after 20 years, a second look at the band in today’s musical context seems just about right.