No Cities To Love
Sub Pop Records
There’s a certain type of ‘reunion/comeback’ record that sounds so much the same as the artist’s old/earlier work that there’s really no point in hearing it – it’s usually a case of the times moving on, leaving that particular sound in the dust. A current example is the latest from The Juliana Hatfield Three. It isn’t terrible – it just didn’t need to happen, and that sound is best remembered when you were younger, hearing it for the first time.
There’s also a certain type of ‘reunion/comeback’ record that sounds so much the same as the artist’s old/earlier work that it’s hard to believe time has passed – in this case a decade – it feels so much like a continuation you’d almost be prepared to be believe it was simply stashed in the vault, saved for when the time was right; fresh bit of marketing to help sell it…
Well Sleater-Kinney’s new album is kick-ass good, and feels just like the Sleater-Kinney of old. As if they simply upped tools and carried on. Which, I guess, is exactly what has happened. It helps that all three players – brilliant in their own right – have carried on with artistic endeavours (Carrie being the most prominent via her turn as a comedic master in Portlandia) and all three players had sideline work happening when Sleater was a thing first time around.
But there’s something special in this sound, the sound that only they create. Opener, Price Tag, recalls the sludge’n’trudge punked-up reggae anger of The Slits, Fangless has that formidable two-guitar edge of the best Sleater-Kinney material and by the time of the title track we’re deep in the alternative universe where a quirky, sneering version of pop music permeates. Strong hooks, big – big – choruses. And that was always there with this band.
Perhaps the only thing that’s changed is that this time around there was some expectation. In the decade hiatus people were turned onto a sound, in some cases slowly catching up, learning that Sleater-Kinney was one of the best bands around. A hint of the magic of the early Breeders/Pixies, those ‘grunge’ moments too when Kim Gordon was leading Sonic Youth through her songs, but all with this spot-on, rock’n’roll, nailed down tight sound.
It’s big celebration of the earlier records – without ever quite repeating them. As the guitars needle and stitch their way through the songs, as Janet Weiss’ thrills-and-spills fills plough deep, Sleater-Kinney is surging on through their past, ruminating on the band, on being a band, on once again being a band – and it’s glorious, emphatic and a leader in the best albums of the year, one of the first big announcement-records of 2015 and one of the best in a catalogue that doesn’t have any misses. It is, essentially, all here. Again. As always. And that hardly ever happens. Not many can get it so right after time away like this. No Cities To Love is as good as could be. And then maybe just a little bit more than that even.