Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (2015)

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After calling it even-steven in 2006, many thought Olympia’s Sleater-Kinney no more cities to conquer. From their 1995 self-titled debut to 2005’s excellent The Woods, it was a career built on 1990s-era riot-grrrl awesomeness and it left a legacy to put many modern rock bands to shame. That was supposed to be it.

Enter No Cities to Love, an early 2015 release recorded in secret and conveyed to a salivating public with little to no ballyhoo. It finds a band having come to the most organic and essential decision a band can make, having returned for no good reason other than the love of making music together.

The connection between Corin Tucker (vocals, guitars), Carrie Brownstein (guitar, vocals) and Janet Weiss (drums) in Sleater-Kinney is profound, as is to be expected. There’s a shabby amorphousness to their playing that shines through in every baggy, prickly riff and every rattling, pounding, pounding drum kick. There are also intangibles, like how this sort of rock sorcery is possible and where the magic actually comes from.

Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities to Love is a set of 10 sharp daggers, clocking in at just a little over 30 minutes and leaving the place a damn wreck.

“Price Tag” is up first, with its angular guitars and jagged lyrics about the high cost of bargains. There’s more heft in the bottom end, more bass pulsing the song ahead like a kind of dead-eyed march.
That same hectic drive is everywhere, like with the howling scorcher “Surface Envy.” Spiked by wiggling, lanky lines of guitar that collide with splashy, garage chords, the driving force is once again Weiss’ drums. They cut up the middle, leaving room for the “We win, we lose, only together do we break the rules” anthem.

Or there’s the clank of “Bury Our Friends,” the lead single. This is an off-kilter rager that focuses up like a Magic Eye painting. Each listen reveals another rock and roll level worth exploring, from the chorus stomp to the winding recklessness of the verses.

More chicanery abounds with “Hey Darling,” a sweet punk tune that fondly borrows from Lita Ford. The fact that the spunky two-and-a-half minute garage thrill leads into “Fade,” the album’s haziest tune, feels like sweet justice.

Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities to Love will find its way on to many annual best-of lists and rightly so. This is a welcome ode to all those cities with all those lost bands pasting it out in garages, skateboard parks, seedy bars, community centres, and church parking lots (just me?) in hopes of cementing it all together one day for a fucking shot at something.

Or better still, this is exactly the rock record 2015 needs.

Jordan Richardson

Jordan Richardson is a Canadian freelance writer and ne'er-do-well. He also contributes to his own Canadian Cinephile and Canadian Audiophile websites. Contact Something Else! Reviews at
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