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Monday, May 30, 2005

The Woods

I bought The Woods this past weekend, the new album from Sleater-Kinney. This is my analysis...

The first thing I did upon playing this album was turn the volume down. "The Fox" opens full blast... heavy distortion pedal fuelled rock that hasn't been heard since... well, a long time. It struck me immediately how clean most rock records sound nowadays. In one sense, it reminds me of in that sense, though combinded with Corin Tucker's vocals (which range from sweet to screech, and a choppy delivery in between), it is more striking than the noise + dynamics formula of that Nirvana record.

This is, by far, the most intense record Sleater-Kinney have ever released. Though I have never heard their first self-titled record, their five records after that seemed to follow a bit of a cycle. Call the Doctor's focus on lyrical content and simple structure attracted attention, plus it's blasts of pure energy (the most notable, of course, being the very lovable "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone"). Dig Me Out continued in this vein, except for the notable addition of Janet Weiss on drums, making for a sharper record rhythmically. It also benefited from a bit of a loss of naivety, with songs becoming more personal, biting, and at times, dramatic. The Hot Rock blew the mold apart for the first time. Sharp two to three minute power pop was replaced by an art-rock approach. The band nearly broke up, and it sounds that way. All Hands On the Bad One saw a more rock and roll approach, the first such instance of any noticeable classic rock influences. One Beat became the group's political record, a rallying cry in a post-9/11 America, born out of frustration, fear, and a building sense of hope in the future. Musically, it was the band's best merger of classic rock influence, experimentation, and traditional song structure/writing. It probably was the band's most accessible, yet adventerous, record. I loved it. From the title track's thundering guitar/drum riff and scaling melody, to the Rolling Stones-esque powerful closer "Sympathy", they expanded their musical palette without losing focus.

The Woods, in one sense, is The Hot Rock for the second phase of Sleater-Kinney's career. The band pushes everything to its limit, be it volume, intensity, song length and at times, structure. The drumming is incredible. I would call it Janet's record if it wasn't for Carrie Brownstein's insane guitar work. Everything on this record is "in your face". That first reaction to turn the volume down was quickly followed by a need to turn it back up within a minute. This is a confrontational record. But more so musically than lyrically (though there is confrontation in the lyrics as well). It is a relentless record. The only drop in tone comes during "Modern Girl", which fools you for the first minute or so. Janet Weiss' drum set probably needed several skins during the recording. There isn't a track that doesn't crank the drums in the mix, and even when they aren't cranked momentarily, they are still being hit with brute force. Carrie Brownstein, meanwhile, is given the opportunity to show off, for the first time on record. In "What's Mine Is Yours", (this is a Moir observation) you can envision her burning her guitar a la Jimmy. At times, it seems like she could be playing with her teeth. Then, on the 11 minute epic "Let's Call it Love" (which in itself features a blues style call-response chorus), she rips a guitar solo for the entire last half of the song, possibly the climax of the record.

This record (Sleater-Kinney's first on Sub Pop), will not make the band popular. They have become, in my opinion, the greatest band to never have a hit song or album. This album is not for the faint of heart. I don't know if I can recommend it as a stepping stone for an unitiated Sleater-Kinney listener... I think One Beat is probably better for that. There aren't many hooks on this album. It is a full on assault. There aren't many bands that can make this kind of record, leaving very few points of comparison. But I will say this... it is blowing my mind. I'm serious. I usually us that phrase in mocking. I haven't even fully digested this album yet... but very few albums grab my attention in the way this one is.

And there still is no bass player! ;)

2 Comments:

Blogger Hosso said...

I havent read your blog in eons. I kind of forgot it existed (only due to my stupidity of course). It is an enjoyable read.

As belated as this may be, sorry about your grandma. Its interesting for me to read a bit about her life, as we always tend to miss those stories.

See ya Brucey....

9:59 PM  
Blogger El Brucio said...

Cool beans, Sarah. Truth be told, I hadn't stopped by your blog in a while, but that was because you stopped updating it.

I'll give you a shout next time I'm in S'toon.

7:32 PM  

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