Sleater-Kinney - The Woods (Cover Artwork)


The Woods (2005)

Sub Pop

Seven albums is quite a large number for any band. Not too many will even stick around this long, and many of those who do we wish would have stopped around number three. This is why it always amazes me when anyone can still release such consistently great albums so far along into their career. In order to pull this off, they have to evolve their sound somewhat, but also can't completely abandon it either. The Woods, Sleater-Kinney's followup to 2002's One Beat and their outstanding Sub Pop debut, is a prime example of how this can work.

There's been a lot of talk about this album being louder and darker than anything else the band has released to date. Well, after listening to the first few seconds of the opener "The Fox," it can be seen why this is such an appropriate description. The song contains some ridiculously heavy guitar and drumming, and of course, the unmistakable vocals of Corin Tucker shrieking above all the noise. This will certainly frighten away some first-time listeners, as well as confuse some long-time fans. However, the song begins to sound better and better with each repeated listen. Things return to more familiar Sleater-Kinney territory with the next few tracks. "Jumpers" is a standout of these songs featuring some seriously dark lyrics over the bouncy dual guitars of Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. Tom Waits once said "I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things." I can't think of a better way to describe this or many of the other songs on this album.

The bittersweet and laid back "Modern Girl" provides an excellent halfway point for The Woods, only for things to kick right back into full force with the album's powerful single, "Entertain." The song displays some wonderfully scathing lyrics from Brownstein regarding the state of music today. Those who are less than thrilled with the current "nü-wave" trend will undoubtedly appreciate such lines as "you come around looking 1984 / you're such a bore, 1984 / nostalgia, you're using it like a whore." It's followed by the more upbeat "Rollercoaster," which has cowbell, so you know it's awesome. Mention certainly must be given to the album's eleven-minute track "Let's Call It Love," a length that is previously unheard of by the band. Sure, it's a tad indulgent, as is nearly any song this long, but it is pulled off successfully and never really gets to the point of boring. It also demonstrates how impressive the musicianship is on this album. The classic rock influences really shine through here, especially with Janet Weiss' extraordinary drumming. The crushing guitars then seamlessly fade into "Night Light," The Woods' haunting closer.

In such a testosterone-driven music scene, a new Sleater-Kinney album is always a breath of fresh air. In all honesty though, male or female, it doesn't matter who the fuck is singing what when it sounds this good.