Quick: what’s the best, most exhilarating opening to a rock record ever? Not the song. Just the opening—the first few seconds, whether a majestic welcome or sonic punch in the gut.
Some think it’s the first note of The Stooges’ Fun House. Nevermind is too obvious. There’s a convincing case to be made for The Jesus Lizard’s Liar album. I prefer the quiet dread of PJ Harvey’s Rid Of Me.
But the best, the unimpeachable album intro to retire all album intros, is the opening passage of Sleater-Kinney’s would-be final album, The Woods.
Really, just the first second of the song is enough to seal its excellence: an ungodly tremor of amp distortion followed by a single snap of Janet Weiss’s drum sticks. It is like an explosion of prehistoric proportions were converted to aural texture. Then, a slowly descending guitar riff that is brasher, crueler, and louder than pretty much anything in this world. The drums stutter and syncopate during the riff’s second two measures, and there is a second guitar that sounds like a saw being scraped across the fretboard.
And then, the cacophony slows and Corin Tucker’s immeasurable wail takes its place: “Laaaaaaaand-ho.” She is singing about a duck and a fox, and she is doing so with the heightened fervor you’d use for a song your career hinges upon.
Welcome back, Sleater-Kinney. If this song were the only one you ever recorded, that would have been enough.
Sleater-Kinney’s new album, No Cities to Love, is out now on Sub Pop. In his 9 out of 10 review for PopMatters, Colin Fitzgerald writes, “No Cities to Love exceeds all expectations of what a reunion album should sound like by not sounding like a reunion album. There’s no dead air between it and The Woods, just beautiful, logical forward movement. In short, it’s a Sleater-Kinney fan’s dream come true.”