I nearly fell out of my chair when I first heard the news Dave Fridmann would be producing a Sleater-Kinney album.
Fridmann’s most famous works are the lush productions he coaxes from the Flaming Lips and his own band, Mercury Rev.
But as his work with Number Girl can attest, Fridmann can make a loud band sound explosive. In fact, Number Girl fans may find The Woods, Sleater-Kinney’s sixth album, very comforting.
From the opening squeal of “The Fox”, Sleater-Kinney comes out swinging with its fierest sound. 2000’s All Hands on the Bad One may have skewed to tunefulness, while 2002’s One Beat flaunted passion.
The Woods, however, is a jackhammer.
It’s impossible to think two guitars and no bass could produce as massive a sound that can be found on “The Fox”. Drummer Janet Weiss could give Ahito Inazawa and Jimmy Chamberlain lessons with this track.
“What’s Mine Is Yours” is the kind of stuff Josh Homme should have written for Lullabys to Paralyze, especially that growling, low middle section where the band goes bugfuck.
And it’s hard not to think of Gang of Four’s Entertainment! when listening to Sleater-Kinney’s “Entertain”, even though musically they share little in common. (Entertainment! is practically slim next to the big sound on The Woods)
But thematically, the biting allusion to reality TV would have been perfect fodder for the early ’80s UK punk group.
Sleater-Kinney gets ambitious with the final two tracks of the album — the 11-minute “Let’s Call It Love” segues with “Night Light”, making for 15 minutes of continuous music. (That’s about 1/3 of the album’s length.)
By then, the album has so pummelled listeners, they may as well fuck the fatigue and go for broke.
Fridmann loves to push the digital clipping envelope, and on more than one occassion, The Woods hisses with ugly sound of loud music surpassing the acceptable limits of digital audio.
For tracks such as “Steep Air” or “Entertain”, it’s almost unnoticeable (but barely). For a track as mellow as “Modern Girl”, which concludes drowned in a fuzzy sound, it’s incredibly distracting.
Although 2002’s One Beat was lauded for its post-9/11 ferociousness, The Woods pushes even further. Put this album on when you want music that punches you in the chest.