Monday, February 21, 2005

Create Your Own Sleater-Kinney Press Release

The new Sleater-Kinney album "The Woods" has leaked to the net. This isn't a review, but I have been able to track down some previews of the new songs. Before entering the studio, Corin Tucker gave this report to Billboard. "The songs we've written are really heavy. We want them to have an organic feel that is simplistic yet sophisticated at the same time. Some of them are much longer than we've ever written before."

A blogger who has downloaded the album - and whose link I've misplaced - described the album as "very different" with "acid-rock freakouts and distorto drums." Compares it Dead Meadow. We'll refrain from speculating about that.

More exciting is Sub Pop's press release for "The Woods" written by Rick Moody (what, Mary Gaitskill was busy?). I'll spare you the opening paragraphs where Moody fixates on the band being from the Pacific Northwest and how they transcended their geographic roots (veiled riot grrl reference?). He also stupidly downplays the greatness of "Call the Doctor" and almost completely dismisses "The Hot Rock." But his description of the new songs are tantalyzing. As follows:
Now, before us, we have The Woods, which appears in the Sleater-Kinney catalogue as opus number seven, and like many things with sevens on it, it features an itch, a need to try new things. Sometimes people get scared by new things, which is one of the reasons people are disappointing. This is to say that you should not be afraid of new things, dear reader, which in this case amounts to a really much more ambitious idea of how the studio can be used, like on the massive upsurge of guitars in the children’s book parable “The Fox,” which opens the album. The drums are recorded with a panoramic quality they have never had before, and there’s Corin wailing in such a blood-curdling way that you would believe anything she told you, and all she’s telling you is “Goodbye, little fox.” This is the first difference: studio smarts.

But studio smarts is just a means to an end. It doesn’t imply that longtime Sleater-Kinney fans will not find what they love, namely the strange, delirious interlocking guitars and the way Carrie and Corin seem to finish each other’s lines, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a bunch of great melodies. But it does mean that it’s okay to have guitar solos. Yes, perhaps no development on The Woods is as indicative of the grab-the-rock-world-by-its-throat thrust of the album as the guitar solos. Everybody knows that Sleater-Kinney was never noted for guitar heroics. Well, if that’s your version of the story, start here with “What’s Mine Is
Yours,” a two-chord number in which the two guitars pick-up the opposite ends of the rhythm, in just the way the singers alternate verses, until, at the 2:13 mark, the song breaks out into an awesome silence, after which Brownstein’s Hendrix-style guitar solo, replete with backwards sections and wall of fuzz, erupts, lasting an entire minute before the drums return. It’s as satisfying as the ear-splitting second half of Sonic Youth’s “Mildred Pierce,” or the Ira Kaplan wall of sludge on Yo La Tengo’s Painful. And that’s not the only guitar solo. There are several!

If guitar heroics are not enough, there’s an ersatz jazz number. “Jumpers,” in which Carrie and Corin sing unison on the verses in a way that resembles Petula Clark. There’s a nice keyboard part, too, and the lyrics are about California, about the Golden Gate, and about, yep, about jumping from the bridge, and there are A, B, and C sections, and there’s no real chorus, because the new ideas of The Woods also include new ideas about song structure, like that there doesn’t have to be a chorus in the usual place, and you can solo whenever you feel like it, passion is the thing, emotion is the thing, art is the thing, and art can knock you out, disorient you, unsettle you.

And there are the drum rolls on “Steep Air,” and the insistence that the listener “please go away” on “Entertain,” which features Carrie’s desperate shouting, and there’s a catchy chorus on “Roller Coaster,” and the way Corin sings the words “cherry tomato” there, and the feeding-back of guitars on the out-chorus, and the incredibly sweet and beautiful and unadorned ballad by Carrie, “Modern Girl.” Never has purchasing a television sounded like such an integral part of contemporary romantic experience, never have a sinisterly droning synthesizer and a harmonica seemed like such appropriate bedfellows, and never has the shift from the present tense (“My baby loves me”) to the past tense (“My whole life looked like a picture of a sunny day”) seemed so telling.

The album closes with an improvisation, recorded in a single, unedited take; that’s right, an improv, which serves as the linkage between “Let’s Call It Love” and “Night Light,” just like on those old Grateful Dead bootlegs, or maybe like in those Led Zeppelin shows from the seventies, a big inflammatory guitar solo passage, with tons of noise, and why you ask, why is this necessary, why even connect the two songs at all, well, because they connect two halves of the experience of human psychology in these rather dispiriting times, these dark ages, the first half, “Let’s Call It Love,” being the totally outrageous and very sexy desire part of the story (“A woman is not a girl/she could show you a thing or two,” or: “Let’s call it my royal flush, I’ll show you what to do with it,”), the second half representing the domestic impulse: “How do you do it/This bitter and bloody world/Keep It Together and Shine for Your Family.” And the ligementary connection is the inarguable greatness of the instrumental passage, sort of like the over-the-top soloing in “Whole Lotta Love.” In fact, rarely has a band digested the influence of the Zeppelin catalogue in such a creative and diabolical way. The point of the improvisation is that it sacrifices everything to feeling, it throws everything onto the fire, in the name of provocation, the better to illustrate the kind of Dionysian/Apollonian opposition of Carrie and Corin, the enraged, the outraged, the unignorable, and then, differently, the tender, the melancholy, the gentle, each of these things in each of the players, always completed ornamented and augmented by
Janet’s amazing drumming.

They came from the Pacific Northwest, but they won’t be stuck there. They want history, they want time, they want art, they want to deal with culture, they have demands, they have needs, they have vision, they have aspirations. And now they have The Woods.
If that's not enough, you can also download these giant photos of the ladies from the Sub Pop press folder. Don't print them full size unless you need extra wallpaper. Or shower curtains. And if you want still more material about the band, here's a fun Q&A that Carrie did with the fans a ways back. I think it's right before the release of "All Hands on the Bad One" but could be wrong. Enjoy.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Marquee Mark said...

Too bad Dale Peck doesn't review press releases. Cripes, I have an active interest in the subject matter (perhaps not as active as Chilly's) and am bored at work, but I still couldn't make it past graf 3 or so.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Prof. Drew LeDrew said...

I'm with you on all counts, MM. Also, I gather the S-K web home has gone through the dread redesign, and their stop-the-downloading plea is now gone from the site.

5:41 PM  

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