Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
Reviewed by: Robin Kovac
Sleater-Kinney have returned, blasting forth on the flaming horses of the rockacolypse, delivering an album that’s every bit as explosive as we’ve been trained to expect ever since their 1996 breakthrough Call The Doctor. In the period in between now and their 2006 breakup, the members saw great independent success: Corin Tucker formed a band and released two albums, Janet Weiss recorded with Quasi, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and Carrie Brownstein, along with heading Wild Flag, saw unprecedented indie musician television fame on Portlandia. Now they’re here as a whole, and on No Cities To Love the band comes through on this album doing what they’ve always done best: producing high-energy, idiosyncratic kicks in the face built on Carrie’s and Corin’s vocal andguitar gymnastics and Janet Weiss’s pummeling percussion.
Immediately, Sleater-Kinney hits us with sounds that don’t wait for us to catch up, first this crunchy, chaotic guitar noise that nonetheless sounds totally controlled. Like they’ve done in the past, Sleater-Kinney is not afraid to explore new sounds and styles. In the second track “Fangless,” they complement their angular guitar lineswith a bubbling electronic that mirrors fellow punk experimentalists Les Savy Fav. The later track “Gimme Love” is a swaggering, building song incorporating a southern-sounding riff into something unique.
The opener “Price Tag” sets the groundwork for the rest of the record to play out, busting through with the characteristically crunchy guitar lead that’s quickly followed by an onslaught of icy harmonics and kick drums. Corin Tucker’s vibrato sounds as strong as ever on this track, channeling the anger of the daily grind in a way not to dissimilar to The Clash in their classic track “Lost in the Supermarket”: “We never really checked the price tag. When the cost comes in, it’s gonna be high.” Here, and throughout the album, Corin and Carrie openly attack a culture all too willing to give up its freedoms for comfort, and manage to do so in a way that refines punk aggression into considerate songwriting.
“No Cities To Love” deals with the sense of not belonging to a certain place or scene, finally deciding that, “It’s not the cities, it’s the people we love.” “Bury Our Friends” addresses the artist’s temptation to forsake their close ones in favor of those they look up to. In “Hey Darling,” Corin delivers a line that seems all too closely tied to their recent mainstream success: “It seems to me the only thing that comes from fame is mediocrity.” Sleater-Kinney have matured, and in doing so have gained a new self-awareness and introspection whose meaning strikes as hard a blow as their guitars.
No Cities To Love is added proof of the exciting dynamic of today’s music. Rock is no longer the young man’s game it once was; we’re seeing more and more seasoned musicians returning from the post-breakup ether, coming up with records that equal or better their previous efforts. This is not to understate this band in particular, which truly is exceptional in how they’ve been able to create eight solid records without a single serious misstep. Sleater-Kinney seems to know this, but they want to be clear that they’re the same passionate people who named themselves after a local road in Lacey, Washington: “It’s not a new wave, it’s just you and me.”
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