Friday, July 08, 2005

You're such a bore, 1984

Sleater-Kinney - The Woods

From the 'added while I was vacationing' file comes Sleater-Kinney's powerful masterpiece, The Woods. Coming 3 1/2 years since their response to 9/11 (One Beat,) The Woods is darker, rougher and angrier, perhaps frustrated at how little we've all progressed since 9/11.

Singer/guitarists Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein have been together now for over a decade (drummer Janet Weiss joined in late '96,) so it's refreshing to see a 'veteran' rock band expand their sound and deliver the goods. Recording their first album for SubPop (the last four with Kill Rock Stars) the ladies called on the I'm-becoming-ubiquitous Dave Fridman (Mercury Rev and long-time Flaming Lips' producer) to twist the knobs and his production makes for an entirely different sound then S-K have ever done before. What you get is big (BIG) drums, over-saturated (RAW) guitars, with challenging vocals (Corin Tucker hasn't sang with this much ferocity since Call the Doctor.) Whereas the last couple albums took challenging songs and pushed them into more of pop sounding format, this one take pop structured songs and pushes them into a more challenging (and louder, have I mentioned how LOUD this album is?) raw sound for a dramatic effect.

The album starts off with an Aesop-like fable of a duck and a fox and unlike the modernized version of these tales, S-K don't back off the fable's dark undertones. It's a challenging song - a good indicator of what's to come in these Woods - complete with vocal and guitar bends that frequent awfully dissonant territory, almost seeming as a challenge to the listener: You get through this part of the Woods, your good. And if the listener does make it through this 'weed out' track, and it's a good one, then they're rewarded with a song ("Wilderness") that's more typical of the old Sleater-Kinney that we've come to appreciate. "What's Mine is Yours," another stand-out track, follows this and starts out in the same vein, but halfway through a breaks into a, what's that, a solo? No. Well, sort of a slowed down guitar solo/freakout before returning to the prime S-K idiom. "Jumpers" takes the listener through a bridge-jumpers final moments, and when the jumper hits the water, the bottom falls out of the song - both jarring and thrilling.

"Entertain" is attacked much like a great Gang of Four song (Entertainment, anyone?) with classic S-K dueling vocals and guitars and wonderful lyrics browbeating about reality tv and retro-rock:
You come around looking 1984
You're such a bore, 1984
Nostalgia, you're using it like a whore
It's better than before
You come around sounding 1972
You did nothing new with 1972
Where is the 'fuck you'?
Where's the black and blue?
"Rollercoaster" rolls along an up-and-down relationship carnival ride, and sports an insistent cowbell begging the question, will Will Ferrell's cowbell character join them onstage anytime soon? "Let's Call it Love" also uses metaphors for love and relationships, this one a boxing match, complete with bells signaling the end of each round. At 11+ minutes, it's awfully long by any standards (S-K usually being economical in their songs) but a double-time break early on and a couple more guitar-freakout solos (more guitar solos from S-K?) make it an interesting workout that's worth the struggle. The song feedbacks and blends into the last track Night Light, which is a dreamy and spooky little song that leads the listener slowly out of The Woods and back home again. A fine ending to an truly great work of art.

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drake leLane said...

Sleater-Kinney - The Woods

* "The Fox" - Sleater-Kinney
* "Wilderness" - Sleater-Kinney
* "What's Mine Is Yours" - Sleater-Kinney
* "Jumpers" - Sleater-Kinney
* "Modern Girl" - Sleater-Kinney
* "Entertain" - Sleater-Kinney
* "Rollercoaster" - Sleater-Kinney
* "Steep Air" - Sleater-Kinney
* "Let's Call It love" - Sleater-Kinney
* "Night Light" - Sleater-Kinney

Andrew said...

I'm glad to see S-K getting the recognition they deserve after all these years. Your readers might be interested in knowing they can download "Entertain" (or stream the entire The Woods album) from the S-K website at

I'm enjoying your blog and plan to add it to my blogroll soon.


drake leLane said...

thanks... you know I've tried leaving a comment on your site a couple times today and it just keeps timing out. don't know if it's a server issue, or just me (or my firefox browser.)