You think you’ve written all you can about you’re favourite band in the world, Sleater-Kinney.
You think that by 2015 you’ve devoured every last track and B-Side from every album and single that will ever exist from the trio. You think that after Sleater-Kinney went on indefinite hiatus in 2006 you’ll never get to see them perform live together ever again because THREE TIMES JUST WASN’T ENOUGH GODDAMNIT. You think that even if there was a small chance they ever got back into a studio to record new material, there is zero chance those songs could ever be as good as the ones you’ve adored for two whole decades…
Then one Saturday morning in October 2014 you wake up to the sound of the postman bringing you the beautiful, seven LP retrospective box-set ‘Start Together’, which you then hurriedly unwrap ready to spend the day in nostalgia-drenched, punk rock bliss and suddenly an undisclosed 7” single drops out onto the floor. It says nothing on the white label apart from a date, 01/20/15.
The single was ‘Bury Our Friends’ recorded in secret by Sleater-Kinney earlier in the year. Soon after, the mystery date was revealed to be the US release date of their 8th studio album No Cities to Love, also recorded in secret at the same time. This was then followed by an announcement of an extensive world tour. This was what we call in the Method Unsound office ‘a pleasure overload’.
So it seems I was thankfully wrong about those first few points. But what about the last one regarding the outcome of their reunion? Miraculously hidden single ‘Bury Our Friends’ was every bit as good as anything they’d done before, and if proof were needed that sometimes – just sometimes – good things can happen, Sleater-Kinney’s new album is their most precision-focused, consistent and rousingly triumphant albums so far.
Then again, if the band have taught us one thing, we should definitely celebrate every Sleater-Kinney album as if it’s their last.
The sound on No Cities to Love is absolutely crisp, despite re-employing The Woods producer Dave Fridmann. He leaves his whirling wall-of-noise behind and instead specifically focuses on the triple mights of Carrie Brownstein’s pointed guitar, the interplay of Corin Tucker’s eviscerating howl with Brownstein’s staccato vocal and the glorious march of Janet Weiss’s superb drumming.
‘No Anthems’ has an almost cataclysmic metal crunch, while Corin Tucker’s voice takes on a deep tremulousness never heard before. It’s a snaking, threatening animal that’s as captivating as ever.
‘Surface Envy’ is exactly the kind of satisfying rock song that Sleater-Kinney can toss off with apparently no effort whatsoever, demolishing their peers with playful yet complex inventiveness and barely contained belly-fire.
‘Fangless’ is funky as fuck and is as infectious as it is soul-cleansing. As for ‘Bury Your Friends’, after at least 38 plays on my turntable I still haven’t heard it enough.
No Cities to Love sounds like no other Sleater-Kinney album, yet despite the eight year gap is a completely natural progression. Much like The Woods was to One Beat and All Hands on the Bad One was to The Hot Rock.
The only difference here is just how much more necessary their music sounds now. As if their coming together to record again was a compulsion that couldn’t be sated any other way. That’s the difference between No Cities to Love and any other post-reunion album ever recorded. There’s a desire to create, not just because it feels good, but because it would be detrimental to their health not to. 5/5