Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love (Sub Pop, 2015)

Another surprising development in the latter half of the 2014 music year was the news that the legendary punk/rock (associated with Riot Grrrl) band Sleater-Kinney would reform to release an album and play selected concert dates. They were one of the finest rock and roll bands of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s with critic Greil Marcus going so far as to call the best band in America in Time Magazine. The three members went their separate ways in 2006 with guitarist and vocalist Carrie Brownstein transitioning to a popular television career, Janet Weiss as a freelance drummer to a number of bands and guitarist and vocalist Corin Tucker to raising a family and to embarking on a solo career. This album is really a triumphant return, the songwriting is top notch and the band sounds as tight as ever musically and vocally. Topical songs are a focus of much of the music with the leadoff song “Price Tag” whose prescient lyrics about trying to make ends meet while doing a medium wage job for a soulless corporation and keeping a family together sounds like something out of Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed. “No Cities to Live” looks at the transitory nature of the American landscape and the urban culture juxtaposed by the threat of annihilation by forces beyond any regular person’s control. It’s not all that heavy though, “Hey Darling” is poppier song, before blasting into blistering takeoff. The love and relationship song “A New Wave” and “Bury Our Friends” takes a deeply rhythmic approach, with soaring vocal harmonies and guitars intertwining with pummeling and forceful drumming. It’s great that they are able to slip back into their distinctive sound like a comfortable pair of old shoes, but this is far from an exercise in nostalgia or a cash in. This band truly has something to say and an urgent need to say it. This was a short album, little over a half an hour long, but that sounds just right, giving the music a lean distilled punch. Was it worth the eight year weight? Oh yes. No Cities To Love -

Send comments to Tim.