Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Sleater-Kinney / The Woods / 9.0

The bad news is Sleater-Kinney’s music has had a total HEAVY ROCK make-over but the vocals remain pretty damn close to they way they always have been. To many of us Corin’s voice is a blood curdling version of nails on a chalkboard and that probably will never change. The good news is their song writing has matured gracefully and tastefully. With the aid of Dave Fridmann, they have grown from sounding like angry girls to enraged and empowered women. Every song travels down a different dynamic path carved out of a mountain of pure rock. Without sounding too feminist friendly I think what makes this kind of heavy record so special and rare is it is undeniably feminine both lyrically and in its attack on expression.

“Entertain” is absolutely the strongest track on “The Woods” and if anything combines the most memorable and volatile moments of “Dig Me Out” and then channels it through a 3 piece more in control of their instruments than ever. This control doesn’t weaken their energy or the spirit of the song, it actually makes them a more terrifying sonic powerhouse. This is Sleater-Kinney at their best. There are however 9 other songs which all vary from okay to great but few come close to this genuine monster of a hit.

The opening track “The Fox” is damn good but the juxtaposition of children’s book like lyrics makes for a curious and one of a kind rock anthem. (For those of you who like really ducks and foxes well, this is so gonna be your jam.) “What’s Mine is Yours” has a whole Hendrix guitar solo that will blow away any classic rock fan and hopefully this will raise the bar for other lady-rockers who will remain unnamed but who keep cranking out the same shit with each new record. (I can’t even believe I get to use Hendrix and Sleater-Kinney in the same sentence…now that’s HOT ROCK!)

“ I spent the afternoon in cars / I sit in traffic jams for hours” is the opening line for “Jumpers” and its genius to hear the guitars mimic the sound of a car repetitively beeping. I have listened to this song in traffic and I will tell you it becomes less endearing when you really are trapped in a car with it and thousands of others along side of you.

Sleater-Kinney has hiked boldly into “The Woods” and bravely decided to take a musical route they have never taken before. The final product is an electric map littered with songs tailored to their journey. The key to all of this will be the listeners ability to embrace the voices that will carry them from beginning to end. Their music deserves to earn them new fans but I fear their piercing howls will continue to be a “Keep Out” sign to the rest of us.

This record deserves a 9.0 and I am glad Pitchfork honored it accordingly. Musically I know Sleater-Kinney has earned it but the vocals will forever be a sticking point with me. Some days I can listen to them and love them, others I cannot bare to be in the same room with them. The non-music critic / headache prone listener in me would give this 4 little red riding hoods out of a possible 5, temple throbs and all.