The perilous nature of the comeback album- while it offers the opportunity of a glorious return there’s also a distinct risk of tarnishing your career with a record that reeks of faded glory or of one last pay day. This surely crossed the minds of Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss when they decided to reform Sleater-Kinney. Thankfully, ‘No Cities To Love’, their first album in a decade, lies firmly in the category of ‘glorious return’. Picking up where they left off in 2005, it is arguably the best album of their quite brilliant back catalogue.
Who are Sleater-Kinney you may ask? Stalwarts of the riot grrrl scene that centered in Olympia, Washington in the early-mid nineties, they released seven albums of uncompromising punk rock between 1994 and 2005. While the albums may not have sold by the million, critical acclaim was not in short supply; even the unlikely source of TIME magazine described them as ‘the best band in the world’ at one point. Hence the excitement and hype that surrounds the release of ‘No Cities To Love’- excitement and hype that is more than justified.
Patti Smith once described her own music as three chords merged with the power of word. It’s a description that perfectly encaptures what Sleater Kinney are all about. It certainly aptly describes album opener Price Tag, a song that welds angular post punk chords with a righteous indignation for modern day consumerism. Gimme Love and Bury Our Friends are similarly hard hitting – both lashing out at celebrity culture. The title track comes with a more positive outlook, a song which celebrates the insular, close knit community from which they emerged (its not the city, its the people we love). For the most part though, lyrically, this is a two fingered salute to modern culture.
While the lyrics remain as angry as ever, musically this record is their most accessible to date. The jarring dual guitar assault of old remains as does Janet Weiss’s thunderous drumming but it all sounds a little bit cleaner this time around. The ridiculously melodic Hey Darling is certainly the most radio friendly song they’ve ever recorded. A New Wave and Bury Our Friends run it close in terms of infectiousness- both coming loaded with monstrously big choruses. That’s not to say that the band have forsaken their punk rock roots- this album still kicks hard and should even satisfy the purists of punks out there.
It’s early days yet but come the end of the year this album will feature in the upper reaches of the annual ‘Best Of’ lists. The good news is that the band are touring the album and play Vicar Street on the 26th March. At the time of writing tickets are inexplicably still available. Buy a ticket, buy this album (and the rest of their catalog) and acquaint yourself with one of the best bands of the last twenty years.