“Eh, that’s cool I guess. But I don’t know, I never really got into them.”
This — because I am a fucking idiot — was my reaction to last year’s news that the long dormant Sleater-Kinney was finally back together and had a new album on the way. Because, believe me, I tried a few times over the course of Sleater-Kinney’s hiatus to get into them, but I could never quite muster up anything more than liking a few of their songs while still having polite respect for what they meant to the late ’90s/early ’00s. And then I finally got around to hearing The Woods. After a six album run built on well-executed tension between these three superb musicians, The Woods to me feels like the album where (maybe because they knew it’d be their last) Sleater-Kinney just let it all out in a violent, crunchy, and all-encompassingly awesome testament to really loud rock n’ roll. And weirdly enough, this album has worked as a sort of keyhole through which I was finally able to comprehend and appreciate the entire S-K discography, since it’s pretty much all I’d been listening to for a good month or two in preparation for their latest, No Cities To Love.
First off, I have to give props to No Cities To Love for being one of the few “reunion albums” that doesn’t contain a single slower ballad that’s there to remind us that these ladies are an entire decade older than the last time we heard them on record. No, at a punchy 32 minutes, this album never even remotely lets up in terms of intensity, while it’s slowest song is the still-pretty-god-damn-heavy “Fade”. Which is why I feel like a jerk for even using a term like “reunion album” in regards to something as vital as No Cities To Love. Because the fact of the matter is, Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker, and Janet Weiss together have this kind of interlocking synergy of sharp angles and unkempt energy that has the power to steamroll any other band in their wake. Which just makes me all the more furious that all three nights they’re playing the Showbox in Seattle sold out almost immediately, and therefore I probably will not be able to seem them crush it live on their upcoming tour.
And while it isn’t terribly surprising that No Cities To Love features a lot of the hallmarks of the Sleater-Kinney sound, it so far stands out to me as being the easiest S-K album to sing along with. However, to say that these choruses merely have hooks seems almost a little demeaning, as they more often than not feel like a call to arms, which just further deepens this band’s innate ability to feel like more than just a band. Of these choruses, the one from “Hey Darling” has stuck with me the most, as it sees Tucker simply declaring that “It seems to me the only thing that comes from fame’s mediocrity”. Which maybe you could poke holes in considering Sleater-Kinney’s guitarist is on television quite frequently, but to me just feels emblematic of this band’s ability to stay indie and stay amazing for so long, and without compromising a thing.
Favorite Tracks: “Surface Envy”, “No Cities To Love”, “Hey Darling”