It takes less than one listen of No Cities To Love to feel eternally grateful for the return of Sleater-Kinney. If you’ve been paying attention to the S-K universe, the existence of this album, their eighth, isn’t a total shocker. From the careful use of “hiatus” rather than “breakup” in media statements, to Carrie Brownstein stating she was playing music with previous bandmates, their return was all but inevitable. What was difficult to predict was the shape which that return would take.
The only hint was last year’s single, Bury Our Friends, which, as a standalone cut, felt a little out of place. While all the signature S-K components were all there — Corin Tucker’s powerhouse vocals coupled with Brownstein’s hiccupping yelp, razor-sharp riffs backed by Janet Weiss’ unwavering beat — it felt flat. But in the context of No Cities To Love, it’s instantly given a new energy and purpose.
More polished than its predecessors but never glossy, No Cities To Love is all sharp turns and no messy edges. Choruses build up and switch abruptly, riffs dart in and out. A New Wave swerves back and forth, weaving between crisp pop and instruments which topple over each other a la 2005’s The Woods.
There are barely any quiet moments on No Cities To Love. Tucker’s vocals blister clearer than ever, particularly the killer opening Price Tag and Gimme Love, both album highlights. It’s so good to hear Tucker’s vocals dominate an album again. Her voice is a superpower, a political statement — she’s so loud and unapologetic. Elsewhere, the dance-punk stomp of Fangless and the frantic A New Wave see the jerky afflictions of Brownstein’s voice eventually take the lead.
From their riot grrrl-inspired punk rock beginnings to the epic proggy jams of The Woods, every album S-K have produced manages to build upon the last while simultaneously changing direction. Clocking in at just over half an hour, No Cities To Love reaffirms that track record. Sleater-Kinney are yet to make a misstep.
‘No Cities To Love’ is released in Australia next Friday, 23rd January. Stream it in full below.