Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
My wife and I were married the year that The Woods was released. It was the final piece in a seven album run of pure excellence by Olympia, WA riot-grrrl act turned indie rock saviours Sleater-Kinney, and it was arguably their best work. It’s arguable only because the six albums that preceded it – including personal favourites Dig Me Out and All Hands On The Bad One – were largely masterpieces. So when the band went on hiatus in 2006 it was disappointing but perhaps not as disappointing as it could have been. Bands that have kept up the consistent level of quality that Sleater-Kinney managed are extremely rare in rock and roll history, and to expect the band to continue being awesome indefinitely was unfair. At the same time, it’s not like they broke up on bad terms. It was more in the way of an indefinite hiatus, and not the Soundgarden kind where the band actually hates each other but refuses to admit it. In fact, a recent NPR interview seems to indicate that getting them back together was as easy as hanging out watching unreleased Portlandia episodes with Fred Armisen and saying “gee, we should play more shows as Sleater-Kinney”.
There’s more to it than that, of course. The band has always been a seething base of operations for righteous feminism and anti-consumerism, a sort of less obnoxious Rage Against The Machine. The years since The Woods have been tumultuous; the near-total outreach of the internet in the Western world has brought even more odious ideas of racism and anti-feminism into full view. Movements like The Red Pill and GamerGate have gained popularity on the basis of ideals directly opposed to those that Sleater-Kinney – not to mention the entire feminist movement of the 20th Century – have stood for. For a band that spent so long codifing their rage into brilliant, complicated punk rock, it must have needled like nothing else. Eventually the slime creeping over the modern world becomes too much and something must be said. Hence No Cities To Love.
None of that would mean anything, of course, if the album itself was sub-par. Thankfully No Cities To Love is number eight in the band’s hot streak of great albums, a wonderfully knotty set of ten songs that abounds with righteous fury and great hooks. It’s heavy, scathing, and easily the equal of any rock album released by people less than half the age of the performers here. Corin Tucker’s strident voice has seemingly not aged a day, Janet Weiss’ drums still thunder like the gods, and Carrie Brownstein’s guitar still remains more complex and emotive than the next ten bands combined. It’s such a perfect Sleater-Kinney album that it melts away the ten years that preceded it as though they never occurred, and, again, such a feat in the history of rock and roll is extremely rare.