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Sunday, May 22, 2005

All Grown Up?

I can't really begrudge Sleater-Kinney for moving in new directions. They've been inching their way towards something different for a while. My initial reaction to The Woods was that S-K was moving towards their classic rock impulses (see their covers of CCR and Jefferson Airplane). Then it was that it was like The Stooges' Fun House, an impulse confirmed by the disintegration of the last few tracks. But that's not quite right either. Fun House was the cry of the young for meaning via self-destruction, like so many great punk albums. The Woods is more a reach back for meaning.

Part of me wishes that Sleater-Kinney could make music like Dig Me Out again, only slightly differently. But Dig Me Out is another young album, based around the theme of angry broken hearts and unrequited love. The Woods, an intentionally haunting title, reaches its most haunting point with the song "Modern Girl" and its constantly repeated refrain of "my whole life was like a picture of a sunny day." It manages to convey the distinct impression of being desperately unhappy with being content.

The Woods seems to be filled with paradoxes like that. Sleater-Kinney wants to feel intensly, but they cannot summon the drama of their earlier works. So they have created a subtly intense, difficult album. I believe it's exactly what they want, for the woods are a dangerous place to wander alone.
- Rowan Kaiser, 6:14 AM
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