Tracklisting: Price Tag / Fangless / Surface Envy / No Cities To Love / A New Wave / No Anthems / Gimme Love / Bury Our Friends / Hey Darling / Friends
Confession time: I’ve always preferred female vocalists. More power, more range, more emotion; Aretha, Janis, PJ, Ella, Carly, Stevie, Dusty, Etta, even (whisper it) Courtney they all send that tingle down my spine on a far more frequent occasion than their male equivalents. So in 2015, in an age of twerking and duck-faced selfies it’s a godsend to have Sleater-Kinney back in the fray. Nearly 10 long years have passed since The Woods and fuck me have I missed the entwining howls of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein blasting through maelstroms of six-string clatter.
Eight albums in and as vital as ever, Sleater Kinney’s reformation screams urgent desire, a factor sorely missing from the slew of money focused reunions over the past few years. Much like Faith No More’s recent return to the studio No Cities To Love has the air of unfinished business about it, a sense that this album has always been there just waiting for the right moment to burst forth in glory.
Opening with the rage against the consumerist machine of “Price Tag” and never letting up the unrelenting assault over the course of 10 perfectly formed nuggets of noise, No Cities To Love is destined to be the band’s masterpiece and a stalwart of “classic album” documentaries. Taking all they’ve learnt over the course of 7 albums and 20 odd years of creativity, it’s an album that never lulls, never rests or wanders. Taught, frenetic, and threatening, their 8th album is everything you wished a riot grrl album would be in the mid-90s finally realized in attention grabbing rhythmic aggression.
“We never checked the price tag / when the cost comes in it’s gonna be high,” so proclaims Tucker on “Price Tag” as she immediately focuses her anger at capitalism and the never-ending 9-to-5 rat race. It’s a ballsy opening statement full of off kilter stabs of guitar and some of drummer Janet Weiss’ most powerful work to date. The funky “Fangless” follows, stretching the band in hitherto unexplored territory before the propulsive “Surface Envy” kicks in with the jittery energy that Elastica once tried to emulate. As Tucker wails “We win, we lose / only together do we break the rules” you realize just how much this regrouping means to the trio. Motherhood, the lure of the small screen, and a plethora of other musical projects haven’t filled the void, so here Sleater-Kinney is ready to claim their place as one of rock’n’roll’s most exhilarating propositions.
What’s most striking about No Cities To Love is just how damn catchy it is. The title track’s chorus is absolutely massive, whilst the utterly bonkers “No Anthems” swaps slinky verses for a bridge and chorus that appear to come out of nowhere, delivering shock and awe in equal measure. Album highlights “A New Wave” and “Gimme Love” turn it up a notch and are simply stunning. Opening with the line “Every day I throw a little party,” “A New Wave” is the purest pop moment here, as Tucker and Brownstein’s vocals combine sublimely on the chorus as you transport to indie disco heaven. Meanwhile “Gimme Love” is one of those songs that just delivers surprise after surprise throughout. Structurally reminiscent of Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their best, its jerky bursts of energy and agile guitar work from Brownstein (check out the magnificent solo) compliment a grand standing vocal from Tucker that whips itself into a frenzy of devious genius. (NB If you hear a song that ends better than “Gimme Love” this year, I’ll be surprised).
No Cities To Love is the sound Sleater-Kinney’s British contemporaries Elastica, Echobelly, and Sleeper were striving for before miss-stepping into a world of Britpop glamour and kids TV show performances. Where those bands focused on the “pop” in their quest for success, Sleater-Kinney prove that making pop statements isn’t something that can be forced, instead it comes from a unique chemistry where three artists fuse their talent to create an intoxicating elixir of sound. Make no mistake No Cities To Love is an album steeped in post-punk history, with all the dynamics and eccentricities that promises, but this is also an album that’ll have you dancing round the room, screaming along at the top of your lungs until the wee small hours.
2015, my young friend, you’ve got a hell of a lot to live up to. Good luck…
Rating: 5 out of 5
THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON BEARDED GENTLEMEN MUSIC.
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