For Her To Say: Sleater-Kinney, “The Fox” (2005)

Assuming you don’t think women should simply be quiet in public, I hope you’ll agree that our society has benefited from musical forms that showcase the female voice. Consider the power of women singers in 19th-century opera—could women voters be far behind?[1] And women professors? And a woman’s voice on the airplane intercom saying “This is your captain speaking”?[2]

The social power implied by female rock singing has always been great, I think, though historically it has been somewhat hemmed in by the conventional restriction of women to the role of singer. It’s hard to call any woman unequivocally “a rocker” till the 70s (I’m thinking of the Wilsons in Heart). Then we have to wait till the 90s to hear an all-woman band that rocks as intensely and originally as any rockers ever have (I’m thinking of Sleater-Kinney).[3]

What will come from this? It’s always still too early to say. But it’s never too early to listen for surprises.

There are things I’ve never thought of a woman saying just because I’ve never heard a woman say them. Since one fine day in 2005, however, I know that it’s amazing to hear a woman make the great announcement of discovery and navigational success, “Land ho!” because I heard Corin Tucker warble it in “The Fox,” the first track on Sleater-Kinney’s The Woods.

“The Fox” 1

On the day the duck was born
The fox was watching all along
He said, “Land Ho!” when he saw the duck
“Land Ho!” and the duck saw him too

What an odd thing for the fox to say to the duck! It’s by way of calling the duck onto the land that is already the fox’s domain. The duck should be the one saying it, but the fox presumptuously makes the duck’s discovery for her.

At first the maneuver seems to work.

“The Fox” 2

‘Shiny Pretty Fox’ thought the duck

The duck came up onto the land
The fox saw her and he just laughed

“I could show you some shiny tricks,” he said
“Come along we’ll get our kicks,” he said
“Land Ho!” for shiny tricks
“Land Ho!” for me

“Oh Fox! Is this love? Can you tell me? What is love?”

That good looking fox only knew one trick
He could break hearts just lickety-split
The duck knew this game, she had to quit
And her own pond she was headed to quick . . .

This fable sides with women and so the duck wises up in time. But from the start we can relish how Tucker is already wise to what the fox is trying to pull; with her super vibrato she puts a “Watch out!” into her voicing of the fox’s part.
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[1] Of course there’s a view that women are ritually sacrificed and subjugated in 19th-century opera plots so that the whole opera phenomenon is a patriarchal containment strategy, but be that as it may, the great diva’s power to hold the stage is undeniable.

[2] Still very rare, but I have heard it on an actual flight. (I’m not counting Laurie Anderson impersonating a pilot in her hilarious-scary piece on Big Science [1982], “From The Air.”)

[3]  Nevertheless I do love the Bangles in the 80s.

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About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
This entry was posted in Rock Aesthetics, Words and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to For Her To Say: Sleater-Kinney, “The Fox” (2005)

  1. Vick Miles says:

    Just ducky! There are foxy ladies too you know –

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