After nearly a decade-long hiatus, Sleater-Kinney is back with No Cities to Love, exercising their reign over the riot grrrl and punk rock genres. The album was recorded in secrecy and produced by John Goodmanson, who produced Dig Me Out, All Hands on the Bad One, and One Beat. The album is much more polished and cleaner than 2005’s The Woods, but it still contains an unrelenting angst and chaotic guitar work. Goodmanson is also known for his producing work with Los Campesinos!, Blonde Redhead, and Bikini Kill. No Cities to Love isn’t necessarily a reworking or a redefining piece of material for Sleater-Kinney, because it’s exactly how we remembered them. However, the feminist and political ideologies are still there and still hit harder than ever before. No Cities to Love is a staple piece, an album that solidifies Sleater-Kinney’s position at the top, and proves them to be heralded punk rockers.
On the title track, Sleater-Kinney incorporates a groovy lead guitar number, a flourishing rhythmic guitar line, and a fun-as-hell chorus that was made to be heard live. It’s one of their most accessible and standard songs to date, but don’t let that make you think Sleater-Kinney is, in any way, catering to the masses. It’s still edgy and in your face, and it feels like a song made for their fans more than anything. “A New Wave” gives attention to the debate on whether or not we are in a new feminist wave. With lyrics pointing towards global issues, like oil and plastic, Sleater-Kinney is expanding their grief and frustrations. “No one here is taking notice / No outline will ever hold us / It’s not a new wave, it’s just you and me.”
The album opener, “Price Tag,” starts the album off perfectly. It shows off Carrie Brownstein’s immense skills on the guitar, Corin Tucker’s commanding power with her vocals and lyrics, and Janet Weiss’ hard-hitting drum beats. The chorus is captivating and ridiculously catchy. On the song’s breakdown, Tucker sings, “I was lured by the devil / I was lured by the cause / I was the lured by the fear that all we had was lost. / I was blind by the money / I was numb from the greed.” For any new fans of Sleater-Kinney, they are spelling out their mission and their thoughts directly and with superb precision in a way that only veterans can.
“Surface Envy” and “Bury Our Friends” are some of my personal favorite tracks off No Cities to Love. Both are unforgiving and immense tracks that hold their own. “Surface Envy” contains crashing guitars that play off of one another with incredible force, and Tucker’s vocals are as loud and menacing as they’ve ever been. “Bury Our Friends” is a more controlled song, but still packs a heavy fire. The chorus is one of their most contagious to date: “Exhume our idols and bury our friends / We’re wild and weary, but we won’t give in.” Tucker also sounds very relaxed and comfortable, with a new meaning behind her voice.
No Cities to Love ends with “Fade,” one of their most weary, strong-armed, and anarchic songs to date. Although Sleater-Kinney didn’t change too much with their core sound over the past decade nor will this album garner in new fans, they stuck to their roots and perfected a polished, surmountable, and energetic album that proves why they’re punk leaders and why they deserve to be recognized as such.