November 26, 2010

Sleater-Kinney – The Woods
hard-rock, noise-rock, riot grrl

At one point during “Let’s Call it Love,” The Woods’ 11 minute psych-rock behemoth and one of the most imposing odes to sex I’ve ever encountered, Corin Tucker’s wailing vocals spiral out of control, and the guitar starts to bend and contort into some sort of agonising guitar-Sleater-Kinney - The Woodsslow-death, and it just sounds awesome. Awesomeness has always come naturally to Sleater-Kinney, and they’ve been shredding speakers with their brand of visceral, urgent rock music since the mid-90s, but none of that could ever prepare me for their final release. The Woods sees them pulling out every last stop and upping the swagger factor to create the most colossal, thunderous, everything-turned-up-to-eleven sounding guitar-rock album to emerge in years. It’s laden with massive hooks, self-indulgent guitar solos, Janet Weiss’ percussive thunderstorm and a killer vocal combination that alternates between Carrie Brownstein’s punchy, confrontational delivery and Corin Tucker’s joyously noisy, trademark holler (or as the band like to refer to it, the “secret weapon”). At times it feels a lot like a combination of 70s arena-rock and early 90s noise-rock, paying equal homage to Jimi Hendrix and Sonic Youth, while coming dangerously close to – and I’m tempted to say succeeding in – surpassing both with self-assured ease. “Let’s Call it Love” is the obvious highpoint, but it certainly gets plenty of support: “Entertain” and “Rollercoaster” are both huge, punked up arena-rockers; “What’s Mine is Yours” features a cool, jagged-edged, dual riff and amazing mid-song guitar freakout, which branches back into the following verse via one of the heaviest basslines I’ve ever heard; “Jumpers” has one of the album’s most exciting choruses, with a guitar riff that’s simply explosive; “Wilderness” packs that same furious grunt while blending in some fantastic psychedelic touches; while opening track and total distortion-fest “The Fox” bursts out of nowhere with such massive firepower that it’ll singe your eyebrows. Heck, even the album’s less immediately obvious picks like the bluesy “Steep Air” and streamlined album-closer “Night Light” would probably be the coolest and most rocking thing on any other album. Despite the beefing up of their sound, the album still comes across like vintage Sleater-Kinney, just perhaps a 50 ft tall, building stomping, take-absolutely-no-prisoners version thereof, and the way they lay waste to everything around them before switching out the lights makes for one of the greatest career-finales any band has ever delivered. I’m running out of ways to describe just how much this album will kick your ass, and just how much you’ll treasure the experience – to put it simply, after listening to The Woods, everything else sounds tiny by comparison.