It’s impossible to even whisper about No Cities to Love without a flurry of over-enthusiasm, nostalgia and all the gilding that comes with ‘reunion records’. Sleater-Kinney’s much anticipated new album is, without all of those accessories, a very solid record.
Of course, there’s no way to divorce a record from its history, but what makes Sleater-Kinney so interesting is the lack of publicity around their ten year hiatus. As such, they were free to choose when they would make a new record, at a time when it was necessary to do so, and natural. All of those elements are clear, sonically and lyrically, on No Cities To Love.
Thematically, the album tackles big-picture issues with songs like Price Tag, whose lament is delivered in a classically frenetic, Sleater-Kinney, way. The anti-consumerism anthem moves swiftly and easily into Faceless. The quick tempo guitar line sizzles underneath Tucker’s instantly distinguishable wail. The just-discordant sonic foundation of Surface Envy is a perfect platform for its chorus: “we win, we lose, only together can we break the rules”. The title track takes the heavy-punk edge provided by Surface Envy and smoothes it out with more of a pop sound, changing the overarching feel of the record. With these minute changes in tone, Sleater-Kinney never run the risk of descending into white noise, yet the record keeps cohesive.
A New Wave supplies the most apt lyric to describe Sleater-Kinney’s comeback. “I am raw material, make me plaster make me fuel, I can be, I can be, I can be.” The next song to catch you off guard is Bury Our Friends, a song that speaks for itself. It’s the best on the record.
The slower start of Hey Darling provides a breather from the relentlessly pounding guitars and drums, allowing the album to rebuild for a final power-push through to the final track Fade. With a guitar lick that makes any rock-lover grin, Fade is a perfect button on another incredible Sleater-Kinney record. Managing not to fall into clichés, Sleater-Kinney demand that if they “are truly dancing our swansong, darling, shake it like never before”. Without a doubt, there will be plenty of shaking to No Cities To Love, an album that is pure kismet.