Written By: Vincent Nijenhuis
Breakups are usually always ugly affairs. Breakups are two people deciding that they no longer feel the same way, and that their relationship will have to dissipate completely, or mutate into a friendship. Their feelings have to mutate just like the relationship does. Breakups are the start of someone’s feelings becoming nothing more than a vague, distant memory. Those feelings change from attraction to bitterness to sorrow to agony before they start can even begin to fade into a memory. “One More Hour” by Sleater Kinney understands this. It understands that a breakup, more than anything else, is about losing your feelings, and questioning them at the same time. “One More Hour” is about questioning wanting those feelings to become a memory one day, but knowing they have to be. It’s a song knowing that the couple in question are in love, but it chronicles the exact moment that one party had to let everything fall apart. It perfectly manages to channel the anguish of knowing the breakup is necessary, and fastly approaching, but longing for it not to happen.
It also happens to be about a breakup among two queer women. Corin Tucker wrote the song about the end of her relationship to Carrie Brownstein, both of whom are guitarists in the band Sleater Kinney. The emphasis in the song is not about the women, but rather the emotions Tucker was feeling about the breakup. Tucker’s vocal performance on this track is coated with her desperation to try to complicate the certainty she feels about the breakup. Her ferocious vibrato sounds that of a fallen angel screaming for some sort of salvation. It’s palpable. It’s raw. It’s jagged. We recognize the angst she has about ending it all, but also the inevitability of it all. She’s not willing to help us understand her heartbreak, she’s wailing just so she can hopefully make sense of it. Brownstein’s backup vocals on the track understand Corin’s struggle as Corin shrieks about how she “needed” the relief from the relationship.
The song’s emotions are not unique to the experience of queer women, and never aimed to be. It’s scope is broader than that, because the emotions in the song are universal. This is a song written without the intention of spreading some sort of message about queerness, but instead written, because Tucker needed to express the weight of emotional burden the breakup caused. It’s about queer people, but it’s not about being queer. It’s about struggle, and longing, but none of it directly related to a queer experience. Even when the song is being blatant about it being about queer women towards the end of the song where Corin pleads with Brownstein “don’t say another word/about the other girl,” it is an honest gasp of breathe instead of playing to a melodramatic queer trope.
Even though Sleater Kinney has a massive queer following, they have never been a band that has been defined by their queerness. They have demanded that much out of us, and have been persistent to shred any qualifiers for themselves, whether it be the word queer or girl in front of the word band. They have been defined as a band that makes great music, first and foremost. They don’t need a qualifier for their music to be understood as great, and that goes for “One More Hour” as well. “One More Hour” is a great song, first and foremost. It’s not a great queer song. It’s not a great breakup song. It’s a great fucking song. Sleater Kinney have consistently been radical throughout their over 20+ years making music by simply making honest music that is too great for any sort of caveats. “One More Hour” might be Sleater Kinney’s most obviously queer subject manner, but it hasn’t been remembered for its queer subject manner. It obviously represents us queers, but it’s been remembered for being one of the best songs of the 90s. In a day and age where queer representation now feels more like a limitation than a character trait, “One More Hour” is a great song made by queer women without any qualifications attached to explain why it’s great. It simply is.