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Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

9.5

One of the compelling storylines behind No Cities To Love is how Sleater-Kinney managed to keep its reunion a complete secret until well after recording was completed. This feat becomes even more stunning once you hear the trio’s eighth album, which virtually demands to be heard both musically and lyrically.

In the nearly ten years since Sleater-Kinney staged an impressive late career reinvention with The Woods only to fall unexpectedly silent, Corin Tucker has released two competent LPs under her own name, both undeniably lacking a certain spark. Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein fared better with 2013’s excellent Wild Flag, which was nonetheless a different beast given Mary Timony’s contributions. Sleater-Kinney is one of rock’s best case studies in synergy; it’s impossible to imagine this band without each of the three members’ critical contributions – and most remarkably, that power doesn’t take the form of a single boilerplate sound.

No Cities To Love reunites the trio with longtime producer John Goodmanson but retains the heavy, fuzzed-out guitar tones honed with Dave Fridmann on The Woods, this time applying them to concise, energetic songs more akin to the Dig Me Out era. I have to think the band’s time playing arenas with Pearl Jam also contributed to the fuller, widescreen sound. The liner notes are sketchy, but it sure sounds like bass occasionally augments Sleater-Kinney’s usual two-guitar attack and it’s hard to discern if some hooks (such as on “Bury Our Friends”) are driven by processed guitars or keyboards.

Meanwhile, Tucker’s voice sounds more unbridled than it has since the late ’90s. On opener “Pricetag” she rails against consumerism and globalization with a fervor that recalls Fugazi in both words and guitar. The record is full throttle from start-to-finish, not through breakneck tempos but rather sheer fury and the incomparable force of Weiss’ drumming.

“It seems to me the only thing that comes from fame is mediocrity,” Tucker wails on “Hey Darling.” Sleater-Kinney’s absence has only made their notoriety burn brighter, and No Cities To Love is anything but mediocre. It’s the most vibrant and thrilling “comeback” album I can think of.

Sleater-Kinney
No Cities To Love
[Sub Pop]