“Part of this whole Sleater-Kinney 2.0 is breaking the rules.” – Corin Tucker
If there ever was a reunion that need to happen, it was that of Sleater-Kinney. The Portland-based band, who went on hiatus in 2006, were one of the few bands that combined the personal and political to devastating musical effect. They were a band that meant something and made music about important issues. And by recording a new album, No Cities To Love, instead of only going for a reunion tour cash-in, they have once proved that they still have something to say.
The album kicks off with a patented Carrie Brownstein riff while Janet Weiss pounds the drums like no else can and Corin Tucker’s wail leads us into the anti-consumer anthem “Price Tag” and there’s no let up from there. “We never checked the price tag…when the cost comes in it’s gonna be high!” yells Tucker in one of many lyrics on the album that deliver a palpable sense of unease.
The tension which has often featured in S-K’s music is to the fore in this album. The tense, coiled riffs of “No Anthems,” the strident chorus of “Bury Our Friends,” the atomic bomb metaphors of the title track, and the anthemic “A New Wave” are prime examples of the struggles the band feel that they still face.
The other side of S-K has been the unbreakable bond between the band members. Here, the explosive “Surface Envy” — “we win, we lose, only together do we break the rules” — serves as a manifesto for the band. The earnest connection between the band and their fans is explored in the buzzsaw punk of “Hey Darling,” and the epic closer ‘Fade’ seems to be a valedictory farewell to music once more.
The performances of all three band members are unsurprisingly fantastic. Carrie Brownstein’s angular dynamic riffs are among the best she has written for S-K, particularly on the joyous “A New Wave.” Janet Weiss’s booming drums dominate the likes of “No Anthems” and “Fangless,” once again proving she is one of the best the best drummers in rock music right now. Corin Tucker’s superhuman vocals are pushed to the forefront on “Gimme Love” and “Surface Envy.”
The band themselves have said they are unsure if this reunion is permanent or a one-off, so who knows what the future holds. If this is the end, it’s a fitting way to go out, as it’s a wonderful record and it’s great to have them back.
No Cities to Love is out January 20th on Sub Pop.