Every now and then a band not only outlives its pigeonhole, but explodes the very idea of it. Though you’ll never hear Sleater-Kinney mentioned without a reference to Kill Rock Stars, the Pacific Northwest, or Riot Grrrl, they’ve become a band that is so much bigger than any and all of those things, and far too great to be subdivided even with the label “girl” band.
On The Woods, their first album on similarly image-loaded label Sub Pop, there’s plenty of distortion and experimentation, song structures that take an abrupt left and then veer back around to what made you love Sleater-Kinney to start with. Corin Tucker’s voice has grown from girl-punk shriek to a torch siren’s wail capable of filling a stadium, but still with plenty of sass. Carrie Brownstein’s guitars and Janet Weiss’ drums are muscular enough for any testosterone-laden arena rock band, but on top of that, they’re just plain good.
Girl-group harmonies–“woos” and “ahhs”–and surf-rock licks combine with children’s book metaphors (“The Fox”) and talk of food becomes sexier than any explicit dirty talk (“Rollercoaster”). The real standout track is “What’s Mine Is Yours,” which despite a detour into ominous, echoing fuzz, is a perfect rock song, all attitude and catchy guitar and a chorus that will stick in your head for days. Also great is “Entertain,” a pointed “fuck you” to the entertainment industry at large and the current rock climate in particular.
There’s not much about this record that fits any label previously stuck on Sleater-Kinney. Yes, they’re still living in the Pacific Northwest, they’re still girls–women, really–and they still play killer rock’n’roll. It just keeps getting better.