In my last two reviews of Sleater-Kinney albums I said that they relied on one technique too much. I won’t say “too much” for this album, but they have found a couple of sonic signatures that set this album, what was to be their last before their reunion a decade later this year, apart from the rest of the discography. First, you have vocals that are howly, straining against the oppression of the other sonic signature, that of an incredible amount of distortion due to being recorded way too high in the red. In fact, this latter element is so strong I had to check out a couple of different versions just to make sure that, yep, that’s the way they wanted people to hear it.
It works when done sparsely, and kind of fits on the 11-minute “Let’s Call It Love,” which not only is an 11-minute Sleater-Kinney song, which, wtf, but also features lengthy, indulgent guitar “solos” full of distortion and feedback. It’s a long way from their riot grrrl beginnings to this kind of a composition. It’s a fitting way for them to putatively close their career, kind of a big FU to reviewers like me who continue to use the phrase “riot grrrl” in reviews of the band’s later albums, as if to say “Whatever, dude, listen, we can do the opposite of riot grrrl just as well but with even more attitude.”
Lyrically, they seem to be trying to explain their decision to disband on “Rollercoaster,” and also attack alternate routes to retirement in “Entertain,” a tirade against reality TV. “Jumpers” fits in with their older stuff, and seems to be about somebody jumping off the Golden Gate.
The story of The Woods is the sound, the ridiculous levels of peaking distortion on pretty much every song. It’s a mind-boggling decision because, other than “Let’s Call It Love” and maybe “Night Light” (to which the prior track transitions perfectly as they were played in one take), it just makes great songs merely good and good songs something I don’t want to listen to. I like these songs. But I don’t like the way they were recorded.
Love: “Let’s Call It Love”
Really Like: “Steep Air,” “Night Light”
Like: “The Fox,” “Wilderness,” “What’s Mine Is Yours,” “Jumpers,” “Entertain,” “Rollercoaster”
Hate: “Modern Girl”
Filed Between: Sleater-Kinney’s Call The Doctor and Sloan (Twice Removed)
Song Notes: After the jump
- The Fox – like track 3, spent some time thinking this might be really like
- Wilderness –
- What’s Mine Is Yours – one of the better likes, but still shy of really like. the noisy guit breakdown in the middle is cool.
- Jumpers – god the sound is awful. would have been ‘really like’ if the sound weren’t so bad. also doesn’t need to hit that verse the last time.
- Modern Girl – boring and repetitive and then the sound gets all fucked up at end.
- Entertain –
- Rollercoaster – holy cow on the bad sound. This sounds like it’s the band saying they don’t want to do it anymore. “We had a good time in the beginning”. Really like the way it comes together at the end.
- Steep Air –
- Let’s Call It Love – the best track and the best one where the sound at its worst actually works pretty well. I can’t believe S-K did an 11-minute song.
- Night Light –