mon 29/05/2017

Albums of 2015: Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of 2015: Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love

Albums of 2015: Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love

A decade after their last album, Sleater-Kinney are still the best band in the world

It's angry and defiant, but it's also an album made by old friends getting to properly enjoy each other's company for the first time in years
'No Cities to Love': the starting-gun fired on 2015

There's a line of argument – and a fairly convincing one – that this is the decade that pop culture lost its imagination. Right now the cinemas are booked out with the latest sequel to a 38-year-old movie franchise, my Twitter feed is collectively losing its shit to a new Twin Peaks trailer and a Stone Roses reunion is headlining half of next year's festivals. We haven't even been bothered to come up with a name for this decade, although when our children's children run nostalgic compilation shows dedicated to the "twen-teens" I will happily take the credit.

Against a backdrop of 15th anniversary reissues and heritage rock festival revival tours, the Sleater-Kinney reunion was less a breath of fresh air than a punch to the gut. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that 2015 was the Portland-by-way-of-Olympia trio's year in a way that 2006 (high off the era-defining rock record that was The Woods, photo in the toilets at the Oran Mor with Corin Tucker, the agony of "indefinite hiatus") felt at the time. Full disclosure: we're talking about my favourite band here, and I'm no stranger to nostalgia – when The Replacements, the 80s college rockers that hold a similar place in the heart of my husband, announced a two-night stand at the Roundhouse in the middle of our house move earlier this year there was no way that we wouldn't be spending the summer slaves to cheap Ryanair flights and credit card juggling. But Sleater-Kinney – whose No Cities to Love was released in January, who played a sold-out Glasgow gig to everybody I'd ever met eight years and eight months to the day I saw them last – had no interest in playing that game.

The album tackles big themes, both personal and politica

No Cities to Love was the starting-gun fired on this year. Taut, righteous and – at just over half an hour in length – not a second longer than it needed to be, it's an album full of songs that nobody else could have written, and one that you can't hear the joins in. It's the sound of three women who, after ten years on the road together, still know each other better than anybody else picking up their instruments in a cold basement and just.letting.rip; it's the smell of the sweat and the burnt-out fuses left in the aftermath. It's angry and defiant, but it's also an album made by old friends getting to properly enjoy each other's company for the first time in years: listen to those zig-zagging guitars on "Surface Envy", and the duelling voices that come together for the song's refrain: only together do we break the rules.

The album tackles big themes, both personal and political: consumerism and capitalism; self-respect and self-empowerment; hunger and need. Only this time their lyrics are more direct than ever before and their music – with the exception of "Fade", which ends the album in a huge, tangled swell of power and feedback – a simple and direct reimagining of their punk roots.

Tucker and her co-lead, the guitarist Carrie Brownstein, have spoken extensively in interviews of their "need" to create these songs, which comes across in their not-a-note-wasted urgency and their central place in setlists that could easily have stuck to the hits. But we – a teenage girl hearing them for the first time, a fan who didn't know what she was missing – needed them too. While it's not yet clear whether there will be more new music – those joyous recent performances on the US late night TV circuit say one thing, the album's final line ("if we are truly dancing our swansong, darling...") another – Sleater-Kinney have shown that they'll be making the rules. Together.

@lastyearsgirl_

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters