Sleater-Kinney gets lost in ‘The Woods’

Jason LeRoy


Credit: Jason LeRoy

Portland-based all-grrrl band Sleater-Kinney has frequently been described as one of the best bands in America. It was actually named the best band in America by Time magazine several years ago when the magazine decided to do an atypically gushy “a bunch of lists on the best of everything” issue, briefly resembling Entertainment Weekly.

The praise was certainly not undeserved. Sleater-Kinney has emerged from the riot-grrrl scene of the early-to-mid ’90s as essentially the only lasting band from that movement. With every album, the band has provided listeners with startling energy and thrilling musicality. It has also earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the best live bands out there, somehow managing to match the heart-stopping drive of its studio recordings.

But now, like so many bands when they know how good they are, Sleater-Kinney has decided to make an experimental album. Having just departed from its longtime label Kill Rock Stars, the band has just released The Woods as its debut for legendary indie-punk label Sub Pop.

While The Woods isn’t nearly as bad as some “experimental” albums have been, it is still somewhat disappointing, especially after the band’s masterpiece One Beat. It begins with crushing guitar chords on “The Fox,” leading the listener to expect an unusually strong rock sound. But then the guitars fall away and Corin Tucker, the band’s nerve-tingling vocalist, comes swooping in and starts singing this warped fairy-tale-type song. It is not good.

From there, the majority of the album plays about with fuzzy ’60s-inspired rock. The songs do not stand out much from one another, meshing together in a rather uninspired fashion. It’s not that the songs are bad — they’re just not that memorable.

The point at which you know for sure you’re listening to an experimental album is on track nine, “Let’s Call It Love.” S-K has finally decided to commit one of those unpardonable rock-and-roll sins: It has recorded a distortion-laden 10-minute improvisational song. These songs are never worth spending ten minutes on, and are obviously just exercises in indulgence.

With that said, “Let’s Call It Love” isn’t quite as bad as it could be. Tucker, along with guitarist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss, clearly have a very strong chemistry with one another and can anticipate one another’s musical tendencies and moves. Still, the track is unnecessary.

All in all, while The Woods does not rank with Sleater-Kinney’s best albums like One Beat and Dig Me Out, it is still better than most rock music being released at the moment. Be sure to check Sleater-Kinney out when it brings its amazing live show to the Beachland Ballroom June 17.

Contact Pop Arts reporter Jason C. LeRoy at [email protected].