sat 04/07/2020

CD: Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love

CD: Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love

A welcome return from the saviours of rock

In interviews, Sleater-Kinney have been at pains to point out that their first album in nigh-on a decade is not a “reunion”. It’s certainly not a word I’d reach for to describe No Cities to Love: it’s too cosy a word – one that conjures buried grudges and a comfortable rediscovery of the things that made a band great in its youth. But there were no grudges behind Sleater-Kinney’s “indefinite hiatus” in 2006, and the music across their seven-album discography was never comfortable. There was little chance of them starting now.

Taking a little of the fire of 2002’s politically charged One Beat, the huge-sounding, technical prowess of pre-hiatus The Woods, and a hint of the trio’s early blasts of sharp, jagged punk, No Cities to Love is both a fitting addition to the Sleater-Kinney canon and a seething, unsettling reminder of what contemporary rock music has been missing. It’s an album that already has its own mythology – recorded in secret, its existence trailed by way of an unlabelled 7” single included in the band’s recent vinyl retrospective. And yet it’s a lean, powerful package: total length under 33 minutes, Carrie Brownstein’s guitar solos reigned in until they scream with the pressure.

That these songs were kept under wraps for so long is the real marvel. The did-you-miss-us rock-out of “Surface Envy”, all girl-gang chorus and Corin Tucker’s primal howl reaching heights it never quite touched on her two albums with the Corin Tucker Band; the curiously danceable “Fangless”, on which the erratic but always-precise drumming of Janet Weiss takes centre stage; punky album opener “Price Tag” – a furious, post-crash companion to 2005’s decidedly more mellow “Modern Girl”. Tthese are tracks that shout their presence, that thrill and surprise at the same time as never sounding as though they could come from anybody else. To quote a Brownstein lyric that marks the album’s mid point: “it’s not a new wave, it’s just you and me” – and the world is all the better for it.

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