Release Date: Jan 20, 2015
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Knocking David Bowie firmly into touch by pulling off what is surely pop’s greatest ever come back announcement, Sleater-Kinney‘s eighth album has been eagerly anticipated since the whispers began back in October. Nearly a decade after their split, Sub Pop released a beautiful vinyl box set reissue of the Seattle trio’s seven albums; an amazing release for any fan. But hidden away inside was something altogether more exciting; an unmarked seven inch with “1/20/2015” etched onto its label.
Some things get better with age, but rock bands are rarely one of them. Most peak at the start (Nirvana, Sex Pistols) or in the middle (The Who, Stones). But how many guitar acts experience a fresh surge 20 years into their career? Sleater-Kinney has done just that with its thrillingly disruptive new “No Cities to Love.” It’s the freshest, snarliest, most innovative rock record in recent memory.
Many reading this were undoubtedly still in short shorts when Sleater-Kinney last released an album. The ten years since 2005’s ’The Woods’ is a long time. In their absence, things changed - their melodic bite missed as countless contemporaries reformed, split and reformed again, often shrugging out new material as if some kind of reluctant contractual requirement.
Carrie Brownstein said that Sleater-Kinney’s first album in a decade isn’t a reunion, but a continuation. But they didn’t pick up where they left off. Where The Woods made sense as a final album -- a departure from their usual sound, an experimentation with genre and concept -- No Cities to Love is both a return to their familiar riot grrl roots and an unabashed demand to be heard again, to be idolized and adored and feared as rock icons.
Long-anticipated return albums are rarely as satisfying as My Bloody Valentine’s m b v or ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but if anything is a good bet to pick up right where a long-dormant band has left off, it is a new record from Sleater-Kinney. It has only been a single decade since the trio’s last release, The Woods, and since then, Carrie Brownstein has still managed to impress with her post-SK hiatus release (with SK drummer Janet Weiss in tow) as Wild Flag. Coming into No Cities to Love, it is Corin Tucker, and her necessary chemistry with Brownstein, that is up in the air.
Just a year ago, the idea of an eighth Sleater-Kinney album seemed like one of those distant pipe dreams that rock fans hold onto despite mounting evidence that it’ll never happen. For years there were a string of hopeful signs that the group, who had been disbanded since 2006, might reunite: guitarist/vocalist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss’s new band Wild Flag ended quietly; vocalist/guitarist Corin Tucker made a cameo on Brownstein’s sketch comedy TV show Portlandia; the trio joined Pearl Jam on stage to perform together for the first time in years. Still, all three members were insistent that rumors of a reunion had no basis in fact.
Perhaps it was inevitable that Sleater-Kinney would reunite. They parted ways in 2006 claiming that it was a hiatus, not a dissolution, thereby leaving the door open for a comeback -- a comeback that arrived nearly ten years after the group faded away. Smartly, Sleater-Kinney don't pick up the threads left hanging by the knotty, roiling The Woods. They acknowledge the decade they spent apart, a decade where all three members pursued very different paths: Corin Tucker turned toward domesticity then founded her own punk-blues band, drummer Janet Weiss played with Stephen Malkmus before re-teaming with Carrie Brownstein in Wild Flag, an indie supergroup that provided Brownstein a breather from her newfound fame as a television star.
As if Sleater-Kinney was going to return from an eight-year hiatus and deliver anything less than a thoroughly raging collection of post-punk anthems that nudges up the powerful perfection of 2005's The Woods at least another notch. The Olympia, Washington trio's career arc to date has been a continuous ascent, with each album building on the intensity and intelligence of the previous work. And the time spent apart from each other following The Woods' touring cycle has been more than well spent: singer/guitarist Corin Tucker released a couple of solo albums; drummer Janet Weiss joined Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks; and singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein provided a killer soundtrack to indie hipsterdom with Wild Flag while brilliantly lampooning indie hipsterdom on the comedy show Portlandia.
On their last album, 2005's The Woods, Sleater-Kinney took a perceptible step into the heavier side, taking inspiration from Hendrix and Deep Purple for extended thrashes of classic rock that took them thrillingly far from their punk rock roots. Arguably the trio's best album, it douses its listener with ferocious declarations and an indulgent 11-minute song that compares love to a boxing match. It was also their first record to be put out via Sub Pop, with the trio swapping long-term producer John Goodmanson for Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips man Dave Fridmann.
In 2000, Sleater-Kinney were interviewed on a long-forgotten American teenage TV show called Trackers. As you can see for yourself on YouTube, the hapless host asks spectacularly mundane questions, but she does at least offer the then Olympia, Washington-based (they now live in Portland) trio the chance to explain their motivations clearly. Firmly, Carrie Brownstein, one of Sleater-Kinney’s two singer-guitarists, says, “we need this”, and to hear ‘No Cities To Love’, the band’s first album since 2005, is to sense their return is driven by the same fundamental necessity.
Now is the time: breaking the decade of relative silence that followed Sleater-Kinney's prodigious supposed finale, 2005's The Woods, the girls are back in town. We have arrived at the critical reappraisal and celebrated comeback of music's most revered feminist saviors of American rock'n'roll. It is 2015 and we are staring down Sleater-Kinney's wise eighth album—exactly 50 years removed from the birth of "R-e-s-p-e-c-t", exactly 40 years removed from the birth of Horses, exactly 30 years removed from when Kim Gordon first yells "brave men run away from me" in the Mojave desert, exactly 20 years removed from Sleater-Kinney, a primal, insurrectionist warning shot from the margins.
Two separate, intertwining narratives inform Sleater-Kinney’s return: one of lingering inevitability and another of furious necessity. The announcement of their split back in 2006 made it sound like an indefinite hiatus, not a contentious dissolution, so there was always hope they’d return. Then, four years ago, guitarist/vocalist Carrie Brownstein noted in interviews that the band would be back eventually; it was just a matter of when and what catalyst would fuel the reunion.
In the chorus of "A New Wave," halfway through Sleater-Kinney's new comeback album, No Cities to Love, Carrie Brownstein sings "No one here is taking notice/No outline will ever hold us/It's not a new wave, it's just you and me." Serving as a mission statement of sorts for the new stage of the trio's career, the line backs up statements Brownstein has made in recent interviews. The band, she says, is only reuniting now because it feels natural, and that the music contained on No Cities to Love exists simply because it needed to exist. A couple of seconds later, she continues: "Invent our own kind of obscurity." While anything but obscure, Sleater-Kinney has always occupied a comfortable niche.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It's a rare occurrence that a band finishes off with their best album, but ten years ago that's exactly what Sleater-Kinney did with 2005's opus The Woods. The hiatus still seems like a bit of a mystery, as the band cited no bad blood or fatigue, but just a desire to try other things. It seemed strange to for them not to want to share their peak powers of creativity together, or maybe they felt they'd done that with The Woods.
Review Summary: The most beautiful noise.Comeback albums are a motherfucker. Think about it. There are years and years of hopes and unrealistic expectations, fans and press wondering if a band's still got it, and a completely bullshit idea that if it not only doesn't encapsulate their entire career but fails to reinvent the game for every current act that name drops them on even the longest list of influences that somehow the album is a massive failure.
The dissolution of Sleater- Kinney in 2007 seemed curiously timed; how often does a rock band call it quits while in their pomp? Issued the previous year, The Woods was their most expansive and commercially successful album to date, its big-rock moves appearing to usher in a new dawn for the taut new wave three-piece. The individual bandmembers have been busy in the interim, most notably Carrie Brownstein, who issued an excellent album with the short-lived Wild Flag in 2011, the same year that she launched cult US TV comedy Portlandia. Meantime, the reputation of Sleater-Kinney has continued to grow.
Executing pretty much the most perfect comeback of recent years, post-punk trio Sleater-Kinney sound exactly as taut and emotive as they used to on No Cities…, their eighth album. Just the odd development marks the decade spent pursuing other projects (Portlandia, Wild Flag et al). Carrie Brownstein (vocals/guitar) attains a new level of magnificence on the classy pop of Hey Darling while Fade, the final track, adds more heaviosity and curdled metal guitar to S-K’s pacey discontent.
When Sleater-Kinney split in 2006, they left an era-defining, seven-album legacy – recently reissued as a box set – that tackled everything from the commercialisation of feminism to 9/11 with a ferocious defiance. They were also experts at shaking up the machismo of classic rock: they paid homage to Springsteen, the Clash and the Who, and wrote big, stomping anthems that made it OK for young feminists to believe in the notion of rock’n’roll as saviour. In turn, they became girl-rock icons that boys adored, too.
"I've grown afraid of everything that I love," Carrie Brownstein yelps in "No Cities to Love," from Sleater-Kinney's excellent new album of the same name. She's not the first punk rocker to get the jitters when it comes to adulthood. But Sleater-Kinney steamroll over all possible doubts on No Cities. They called it quits in 2006, after a 12-year run as America's fiercest punk band.
No Cities to Love, the album that formally establishes Sleater-Kinney's return after an eight-year hiatus, has a reputation to live up to. The band recognizes this: “We're trying to push through, so desperately, to something bigger,” drummer Janet Weiss recently told NPR. And while desperation isn't always a good look, this is a band that's often, and pointedly, made even love sound like the most cataclysmic of efforts.
Sleater-Kinney’s breakup in 2006 seemed like a logical step for the group, who had been together since 1994. The band’s members were, naturally, interested in pursuing their own routes in life after 12 years, a long time to do anything consistently. Janet Weiss worked with her group, Quasi, and played drums for Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks. Corin Tucker invested herself in becoming a badass mom, and then eventually fronted her own group, The Corin Tucker Band.
opinion byPETER TABAKIS < @ptabakis > It still makes me a little crazy that there are people for whom Carrie Brownstein is famous not for being a founding member of Sleater-Kinney, one of America’s greatest rock acts, but the co-creator of a loving (and at times stinging) television satire of her band’s core demographic. This turn of events, so bizarre and poetic, is unprecedented in the history of popular music. Imagine the following hypothetical scenario.
Reunion albums are so often fraught with impossible expectations it is the rare release that is able to capture a band’s original magic without sounding like a retread — and an even rarer one that points toward a vital future. But Sleater-Kinney is no ordinary band and, following a near decade-long hiatus, the trio roars back to life on “No Cities to Love,” out today, with all of its fiery charm intact and sounding refreshed. Several wonderful things resulted from the seminal indie rockers’ — drummer Janet Weiss, vocalist-guitarist Corin Tucker, and vocalist-guitarist Carrie Brownstein — extended break.
Off the top of the head, it’s difficult to think of many bands - in recent history, at least - that you can honestly argue went out at the height of the powers; LCD Soundsystem are the only one that spring straight to mind, and in their case it was less to do with preserving their legacy, apparently, than it was James Murphy’s insecurities about continuing with the group into his forties. In addition, there aren’t many back catalogues that manage to get more than a decade along the line, seven full-lengths in, and still don’t contain anything like a misstep. What I’m getting at is that the stakes for any kind of Sleater-Kinney reunion record were always going to be supremely high.
Sleater-Kinney No Cities to Love (Sub Pop) Layoff spurred no staleness in the newly regrouped Sleater-Kinney. The Olympia-born trio's first LP in a decade sounds as brazen as ever. Coupling punk rock sass with unbridled passion, the Portlanders' eighth album commences on a relatable blue-collar note, as fraught-rock opener "Price Tag" chronicles a kids-carting mother's penny-pinching plight while grocery shopping: "They reach for the good stuff/ Let's stay off the label/ Just 'til we're able.
Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)After eight years off, Sleater-Kinney sounds just like before and maybe better. Coiled, off-kilter riffs—Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker doing entirely different things—caroming off one another like charged particles in a supercollider. There’s no bass, but it sounds like there is, with one guitar tuned low-enough to put a bounce under irregular beats.
If surprise albums are starting to seem de rigueur, I, for one, am glad that in this age of social media babble, there still exists the opportunity to get stupidly excited. Even better when the surprise album comes from one of your favourite bands you'd given up hope of ever hearing from again - 9 years is a long time after all. The announcement in October 2014 that Sleater-Kinney had not only got back together without anyone realising but were also releasing their eighth studio album, No Cities To Love, stirred up a fervour of anticipation, sending music journalists scrambling for that old Greil Marcus quote about Sleater-Kinney being "the best band in the world".
You'd never know this was Sleater-Kinney's first album in a decade, their eighth in total. The hugely anticipated No Cities To Love, recorded in secret last year, is fierce, forceful, vibrant - far from another phoned-in reunion or attempt to cash in on the success of the Olympia-formed trio's post-SK careers (Carrie Brownstein's hit show Portlandia; Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss's now dead Wild Flag project, etc). Singer/guitarist Corin Tucker's solo career didn't catch fire quite the same way, but here she's brings it the hardest.
Sleater-Kinney's stature only increased while it was away. After recording seven mostly terrific albums over a decade that saw the Pacific Northwest trio grow from riot grrrl upstarts into one of the most accomplished bands of its generation, Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss drifted apart in 2006. Because they left on a high note, a comeback seemed only a matter of time.