I’ll admit it: new material from Sleater-Kinney ranked pretty high on the list of things I never imagined I would hear in my adult lifetime. The band announced an indefinite hiatus in 2006, each member delving into solo projects and new bands. The years started to add up, I emerged relatively unscathed out of puberty, and it became easier and easier to believe that 2005’s The Woods was their de facto final album.
But wait! Never say die! The girls are back in town, older, wiser, and fiercer than ever. Don’t let the cover fool you. No Cities To Love is no shrinking violet. Nor is it a halfhearted last hurrah released to appease fans and top off a retirement account (or three). This record is Sleater-Kinney at their best, a full-throttle punk masterpiece that makes the years seem shorter than they probably were. Hiatus-shmiatus.
No Cities To Love bursts with killer choruses, massive riffs, and sharp songwriting. An inexhaustible stomp anchors “Surface Envy” and “Gimme Love” and I plan to strut down the sidewalk to both in the coming days. Corin Turner and Carrie Brownstein split vocal duties and dominate every note; their sheer power (extra potent on “Price Tag” and the title track) proves they didn’t come here to sound nice for you.
That is hardly a surprise. Sleater-Kinney have never cared about being agreeable. Brazen feminist lyrics – “Only I get to be seen by me,” sneers Corin Tucker on “Bury Our Friends” – plants No Cities To Love firmly in the band’s Riot grrrl past. Yet the album also rings true as a new rebel yell for a generation of feminist rock fans too young to remember Kathleen Hanna onstage demanding, “All girls to the front!” With pop (read: Beyoncé’s “***Flawless” and Charli XCX) currently carrying the girl power torch, the band’s return to rage comes as a relief.
With no major missteps, no baffling production decisions, and no time to waste at just 33 minutes, Sleater-Kinney have just released the most sophisticated yet totally ass-kicking punk record in recent memory. My only real qualm regarding No Cities To Love? I’m too old to enlist the album as the soundtrack to my angriest teenage years.
Never leave us again, Sleater-Kinney. And for what’s it worth, your middle fingers haven’t aged a day.