Running Through 'The Woods'
Imagine a soundtrack so primal that it makes you want to run through the trees, wearing only headphones that supply a sludgy heartbeat and a cathartic wail.Imagine a soundtrack so primal that it makes you want to run through the trees, wearing only headphones that supply a sludgy heartbeat and a cathartic wail.
Welcome to Sleater-Kinney's "The Woods." The band's first Sub Pop album and seventh overall is repeatedly dragging me around by my ear, up and down stairs, into walls, often leaving me in a helpless heap by the door. And I keep going back for more.
I freely admit that I came late to the SK party, passively listening to their late 1990s stuff, but not really falling until 2000's "All Hands on the Bad One" (Kill Rock Stars). Yet even though they filled the hole in my head once occupied by Throwing Muses, I didn't anticipate "The Woods."
I didn't expect to have the breath knocked out of my lungs. I didn't expect to crave another wallop when the disc ended less than 45 minutes after it began. I didn't know that my childhood appreciation for classic rock, my teenage metal passions that gave way to punk and the modern rock I've wallowed in ever since could meld so perfectly.
Some have argued that "The Woods" does not possess the melodies of "All Hands" or 2002's "One Beat," but I strongly disagree. Hear the hooks in the opening couplet of "The Fox" and "The Wilderness" and the bounce of "Modern Girl" and "Rollercoaster." I find the tunefulness to be more prominent in this batch of songs than almost any other SK has produced to this point. And they still leave a stinging mark that would beat red and swelter for days if the aural was physical.
While some hear noise when Corin Tucker lets loose her throaty vocal screech, I hear joyful noise that satisfies something basic and at the same time emits the sound of an angel walking the same Earth as I. Her guitar celebrates and at times fights Carrie Brownstein's, sometimes letting go, sometimes choking. The interplay makes my pulse race as the songs bolt towards their finish, tripping and picking their muddied selves from the ground, never relenting until the last gasp.
And Janet Weiss' tumultuous drumming supplies the thunder that fuels my mythic run through the underbrush, dodging boulders and fallen trees as the cold bites at the sweat on my skin. Exhaustion is accepted as the final notes of "Night Light" fade, only to be ignored wholesale as the disc repeats and "The Fox" starts me running again.