What can be said that hasn’t been said about these “riot grrrl” pioneers; the undisputed indie-rock triad that is Sleater-Kinney. They were the femme-punk-triple-attack dosage of biting vocal performance and swirling guitar leads that could get you through any moment of self-awareness due to your mundane daily service to the system or getting you through your lingering thoughts of that “used-to-be-special” someone. After ten years without a new album these ladies are back with attitude, in fact, they’re back with it in spades. While their last album The Woods focused on a more experimental and almost “concept-esque” tone, this album goes back to their roots, which are now twenty years deep. Yet, with that old school flare, these wise women have maturity and experience that shines through on this comeback disc No Cities to Love.
This album only has ten songs and a run-time of about 32 minutes. One would think with a presentation that short this trio would lose their trademark punchiness but, it’s quit the contrary. They come with all the spunk they got right away with the opening track “Price Tag” with its glitchy chords and manic vocals by the always effervescent Corin Tucker. Any fan, hardcore or casual, can see right away from this track and the following tracks that although Sleater-Kinney is still tapping into looping lead guitar lines and noisey feedback, they can still write strong melodic vocal lines and catchy-as-hell choruses. Tracks like “Fangless,” “Surface Envy,” and “No Anthems” have almost dance-like beats and a mid-tempo vibe allusive to their more seminal works like All Hands on the Bad One and The Hot Rock. However, the title track (with its companion celebrity filled music video) is sadly one of the most lackluster tracks on the entire album. Although it houses a once again brain-meltingly catchy chorus it’s overall tone is sub par and underwhelming. This is thankfully combated by the follow up track “A New Wave” which the girls performed live on David Letterman just a couple of days before the album dropped:
This song showcases Sleater-Kinney in true form with Carrie Brownstein (lead guitarist and now comedienne of ‘Portlandia’ fame) on lead vocals. It’s an edgy, visceral, and all encompassing “riot grrrl” battle cry that could’ve easily had a place on their debut album in ’95. The next track “Gimme Shelter” starts off with an interesting syncopated vocal and drum intro that makes way for a solid middle section of the album. “Bury Our Friends” (the first single from the album that dropped in 2014) continues to intrigue the listener with a great rhythm section laid down by the seemingly underrated and under cited (at least in my eyes) powerhouse drummer of Sleater-Kinney, Janet Weiss. In the press the girls said their were no “slow songs” on this album so, with that in mind, “Hey Darling” would have to be the closest thing to what one might call a “ballad” or “slow song.” Although, I think you could make a strong case for the closing track as well “Fade.”
Overall, I deem this comeback a success. Fans, rejoice, the Queens of Alt-Indie Rock have taken their rightful place back on the throne and delivered No Cities to Love as the first great album of 2015. When they come to Warehouse Live in April, you will definitely see me there in the front row singing their classics and cuts from this new album as well.
Check out the entire album here on Spotify and tell me in the comments what you thought of the album or your favorite Sleater-Kinney song. Don’t forget to share this article with your pals on social media as well. They might like Sleater-Kinney a lot too and you don’t even know. So, you’ll have learned something new about them and as they always say, knowledge is POWER!
By Trent Lira