Sleater - Kinney - The Woods

The guitars grind, the drums clatter, and Tucker shrieks and shouts. There's no tune to speak of, just a huge outburst of uncontrollable energy and passion.




Sleater - Kinney – The Woods


I am going to do what no self-respecting person writing for a music 'zine should do – confess my ignorance. But this is the first Sleater Kinney album I've listened to. I've seen them live and I've known how good they are, but somehow, every time one of their albums has appeared I've always managed to buy something else instead. And the dull thudding sound I've just heard is, I suspect, that of Sleater Kinney fans around world hitting their hands onto their foreheads. They're probably rolling their eyes too, but I can't hear that. I've got there in the end though, and I'm happy to say it's been well worth the wait.


The Woods rocks in a dark and sludgy heavy rock way. There's no exhilarating sugar rush that you often get with a three piece – instead the album broods and batters you into submission. It opens with The Fox, an almighty din that features Corin Tucker's voice wailing in a Patti Smith / P.J. Harvey type way. The guitars grind, the drums clatter, and Tucker shrieks and shouts. There's no tune to speak of, just a huge outburst of uncontrollable energy and passion.


Things calm down a bit on The Wilderness. Not a lot, but just enough to let the hint of a tune come through. There's also a great guitar solo and the feeling that the band are walking something of a tightrope. With this track, as with the album as a whole, they are mixing heavy rock riffs with something of an art school aesthetic. Tip too far one way and you're just mining the past; tip too far the other way and you end up with a rather mannered and anaemic intellectual exercise. And they make it clear that they're not going down the former path – on Entertain they rail with righteous fury against that lot. You know the ones I mean - ''You come round sounding 1972 /  You did nothing new with 1972 / Where is the fuck you?' And 'Nostalgia, you're using it like a whore.'


As Entertain also points out, they aren't here to make this an easy listening exercise. They've worked at it, and they want you to work at it too. And if you do, there's some great stuff here. There are riffs a plenty and some muscular guitar workouts. But you really do need to listen a few times before some of the album's charms become apparent.


The exception to this is the instantly catchy Rollercoaster, which comes with a kick-ass funky riff. At the opposite end of the scale is the album's centrepiece, the eleven minute Let's Call It Love. Well, they can call it that if they want to but I can assure you that love plays no part in this track. Clanking guitars, fuzzed up static, staccato outbursts of high-pitched shriekery kick things off. Tucker invites the fellow to hit the floor with her. 'I won't let you out till I've had enough,' she says. Well, all hell breaks loose and there is shouting and moaning and an almighty din. It's about need, not love, and the track only ends when all energy is spent.


The Woods is furious and fiery and never lets up for a second. You emerge from it rather like I imagine the man in Let's Call it Love did – you've taken a bit of a thrashing all right but hell, it was fun. Let's do it again.


Words: Chris Dawson.