The Woods


Sub Pop, 2005

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Some bands are synonymous with their record labels: Bob Dylan with Columbia, Bright Eyes with Saddle Creek, early Nirvana and Soundgarden with Sub Pop and Sleater-Kinney with Kill Rock Stars. The best of these labels act as homes to their artists. Still, there are times when you have to leave home to continue to grow as a person.

Sleater-Kinney chose to move out of their Kill Rock Stars home and move into still-standing-after-all-these-years Sub Pop records. They left on a high note with their 2002 release One Beat, a combination of the band's response to a post-Sept. 11 America and a mediation of the responsibilities of motherhood by singer/songwriter Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein.

With six albums under its belt, what can a band do for an encore? If you're Sleater-Kinney, hire Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann and start a serious jones with Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. The result is my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Woods; probably the heaviest album you're going to hear this year.

The Woods certainly has a 'woodsy' feel to it. Animal and forest imagery are all over the album. The opening track, "The Fox," comes off as a creepy nursery rhyme a la Little Red Riding Hood. One song is even called "Wilderness." But more abstractly, the band, possibly drawing from their Pacific Northwest roots, have recorded an album that sounds like a buzz saw cutting through forest brush.

Fridmann pushed Sleater-Kinney to retool its sound for The Woods. Probably the best representation of this is the ten-minute-plus "Let's Call It Love." The first four minutes of the song has Godzilla-sized guitar riffs, but is sent off its tracks by Janet Weiss' pulverizing drumming. What ensues is a seven-minute jam with enough feedback for a My Bloody Valentine record. The song was recorded in one take.

Fans of Sleater-Kinney's earlier (read: more punk-oriented) albums can breath easy, though; the band hasn't gone totally King Crimson on them. "Rollercoaster" could have sounded at home on their Call The Doctor album and the visceral "Entertain" takes a Molly Hatchet to reality television and hipster wannabes. If this song was written by most any other band, it would have sounded five years out of date and would have reeked of sour grapes, but Brownstein pulls you in when she screams "Rip me open, it's free." The seriousness of Brownstein's delivery is immediately offset with a playful, punkish sing-along of "1,2,3! / If you wanna take a shot at me, get in line."

With the exception of "Jumpers," a frank account of a school kid pushed to suicide, The Woods has a playful sound. "Kenny and Linda on the way to Chelan / Transmission's shot, no back up plan / Will they hitch a ride?/Or get into a fight?" Brownstein sings in the opening lines of "Wilderness." The song could have very well have been about the band as they chart a new path on The Woods. It's a departure, but not near the departure as critics are painting it to be. The only advice I have to listening to it is to try to see the band live. It is in that environment when the so-called excessive and indulgent risks of The Woods make perfect sense. Just bring earplugs. Even on low, The Woods rocks with a fury that is as fun as it is lacerating.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2005 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sub Pop, and is used for informational purposes only.