Welcome to Gay-Nerds biweekly review of music made by members of the GLBT community and their allies. This week, we’re taking a look at the final bow by a trio of trailblazing women after a fifteen year career. “The Woods” is an absolute gem because it beautifully captured life in the 21st century while rocking more intelligently and harder than nearly any other record that decade. Oh, did I mention that Sleater-Kinney only needed three women to decimate any other band in their path?
Sleater-Kinney had spent nine years cultivating a respectable underground fanbase with their thought-provoking punk. Whereas other riot grrrl bands alienated listeners with radical, man-hating lyrics, Sleater-Kinney always found a way to strike universal cords with listeners from any walk of life. Always the active, aching observer, Sleater-Kinney wrote crisp satire and documents of their world on the backdrop of buzzsaw guitars and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Each release saw the women tackle sexual and gender politics, relationships, government hypocrisies and everyday life without adhering to any sort of punk-rock dogma. When you listen to Sleater-Kinney, you absorb their lives rather than the life of a “punk” or “woman”. As the years passed, Sleater-Kinney’s musical palate began to incorporate more restrained structures and intricate arrangements without losing any sense of accessibility or urgency; seventies pop rock and 80s jangle pop would find their way between furious drumming and angelic dual part harmonies. No one really knew what to expect from The Woods other than that it would be different.
“The Fox” begins with a few quick stick snaps before crushing the listeners with fuzzy feedback resembling Led Zeppelin channeled through Soundgarden, and classic rock marries punk sensibility into a beautiful and ferocious force of nature. Throughout the album, America’s overseas politics and doublespeak is called into question and scrutiny. “Jumpers” sympathies the office worker’s relief and regret from leaping from the Golden Gate Bridge. The same pressures that person was facing are examined from the opposite perspective in the next track. “Modern Girl” writes an equally touching portrayal of the person who blindly follows the American Dream to it’s impossible and empty conclusion.
The personal and political blend seamlessly throughout “The Woods”. “Rollercoaster” brings the cowbell to usher in the tale of a rocky relationship while “Entertain” stomps the life out of modern “art” and its critics. Then there is the 11-minute sparring match that is “Let’s Call It Love” that soars into the delicate“Night Light.” The album finishes with a question rather than resolution, begging how one can find hope and comfort as he or she flails about in everyday grime.
It’s easy to see why this album didn’t top modern rock charts. An album made by three women in their thirties, two openly bisexual members, using two guitars and a drum set was apparently too ludicrous to work. The songs examined and challenged the status quo without resorting to tired punk anthems, and the lyrics were far too thought-provoking for a radio that was busy mining rehashes of beer laden bravado and monotonous dance beats. It’s too bad. This album really could have been that decade’s watershed rock release like “Nevermind” before it. While the ladies have all gone on to different projects since, I feel that they will have a difficult time encapsulating the energy and urgency of this disc. Don’t sleep on this.
Recommended if you Like: Archers of Loaf’s “The Greatest of All Time”, Nirvana’s “In Utero”, Fugazi’s “The Argument”
Disagree? Think Heavens to Betsy was somehow better? Want to argue which member is the coolest? (The answer is yes.)
Bring it to the forums!