Most rock bands lose their rawness as they become more accomplished as players, and sometimes that's a good thing: Sleater-Kinney's recent, more carefully crafted albums are better on the whole than their early ones. But on their latest, The Woods (Sub Pop), they've gotten skilled enough to loosen their grip on the reins, and they sound more ferocious and uncontained than ever. Producer Dave Fridmann has an annoying habit of pushing the sound into the red to simulate orchestral murk and intensity--the first time I heard "Modern Girl" I thought my speakers had blown--but the band doesn't need his smoke and mirrors. Though Corin Tucker still sings in a wild howl, she can do more within its limitations now: she wails like a banshee on the chorus of "The Fox" and turns deep inside herself on the poignant, gritty "What's Mine Is Yours." Carrie Brownstein's vocals are still thin in comparison, but the trade-offs between the two are some of the band's most effective gambits. Drummer Janet Weiss hits so hard she renders much of Fridmann's fader pushing redundant; she'd always taken on more work than usual to make up for the band's lack of a bassist, but these days she's functioning as the band's entire rhythm section. That leaves more space for Brownstein's hot-shit guitar leads, which sound like natural outgrowths of the songs instead of show-offy wanking--you might miss them if you're not listening for them, a good thing in my book. The band's instrumental power sometimes distracts you from its smart lyrics, which are both breezy and precise; pulling back from the post-9/11 concerns of their previous album, One Beat (2002), here they take on the absurdity of relationships and the struggle to keep emotions in check. Dead Meadow opens. Thu 6/16, 7 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, $20. All ages.