It's way too easy to anoint Sleater-Kinney the savior of rock 'n' roll, as many have since the band's self-titled debut CD came out in 1995: After all, the all-woman trio has energy, chops, and hooks; delivers its virtually clichĂ©-free lyrics with intensity and an unmistakable (and strangely Belinda Carlisle-esque) vocal style; and possesses an all-ages-only, independent approach to touring. But all that critical adulation—fed by the fact that the group is a pretty safe pick politically—means there'll likely be a big backlash the moment it missteps. Fortunately, that moment is nowhere near Sleater-Kinney's marvelous fourth album, The Hot Rock, which squeezes in numerous awesome, "Dig Me Out"-style anthems ("The End Of You"), a Go-Go's-esque pop song ("Banned From The End Of The World"), a jarringly intimate ballad ("The Size Of Our Love"), and loads of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein's increasingly flashy guitar work. At times, The Hot Rock lacks the blaze-of-glory freshness of its justly acclaimed predecessors—a few tracks, such as "Burn, Don't Freeze" and the single "Get Up," don't quite click—but it's a mostly spectacular record for a band that hasn't delivered much else in its young career. Much is made of Sleater-Kinney's politics, gender, sexuality, feminism, and adherence to its punk-rock ideals, but The Hot Rock works just fine on its own as a terrific, explosive, and fun rock record.