Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love (UK Release: 19 Jan '15) // Words: Simon Opie
Ten years ago 'The Woods' established riot grrrl heroines Sleater-Kinney as one of the very best rock bands around – of whatever gender; but the tour in support of the album was followed by an indefinite hiatus for the band. Now they’re back, and 'No Cities To Love' was worth the wait.
At just 32 minutes long you might think it was a return to the early post-punk style of 'Call The Doctor' and 'Dig Me Out', but you’d be mistaken because this latest album builds on the meatier approach of 'The Woods' and takes it up a level. The guitar work of Carrie Brownstein, who has become a mainstream TV star in the interim, is tremendously accomplished and the intricate interplay of all three band members weaves a mighty spell that compels an immediate replay as soon as closer 'Fade'’s dying bass-line expires.
I think the album’s strength comes from the lyrical content, which expresses a sharply perceptive disillusionment, allied to insecurity, in the affairs of the day to day, whilst retaining the energy of rock music as the medium. Songs like 'Bury Our Friends' and title track 'No Cities To Love' stitch these elements together seamlessly, and the theme of the album is perhaps summed up by the aforementioned 'Fade' – "If we are truly dancing our swan song darling, shake it like never before".
Well, Sleater-Kinney certainly do shake it like never before, although it’s to be hoped this record isn’t their swan song. The album is expertly produced and mixed by John Goodmanson – who I discover produced amongst others, The Catheters’ 'Bleary Haze', one of my absolute all-time favourite songs - and the vocals in particular are strong but not as strident as on some previous recordings. Opener 'Price Tag' sets the tone with an articulate analysis of contemporary consumer life played out to some top-notch riffage. 'Fangless' follows and continues the uncompromising defiance of circumstance: "I’ve been reassigned, Put back in line, With the other disappeared’…’You were born in a shout, But you will die in a silent skull."
Personal highlight 'Surface Envy' is almost anthemic and a terrific testament to the affirmative power of rock and roll. What a great way to start 2015 and I’ll be amazed if this record isn’t top of my list come December. In fact if it isn’t, I promise to run the whole length of Denmark Street in broad daylight wearing only a Sleater-Kinney tee-shirt.
Find more info on 'No Cities To Love' at megamart.subpop.com.