No Cities To Love
****and1/2 out of *****
The band has crafted their most mature (makes sense) and accessibly mainstream (semi surprising) album of their career. When they were last cranking out the jams, the band seemed to hit a musical turning point with The Woods, blasting their angst past while funneling it through loud arena rock production; an amazingly successful record all around.
They turn down the angst/fire/noise on No Cities To Love and increase the pop but for a band just getting back into the swing of things after a 10 year split SK are confident, vibrant and just as vital as ever. By putting a softer touch on things a new legion of fans will be able to attach themselves to these songs now that the band might have it's highest profile ever thanks to years of internet pining and Brownstein's star turn on IFC's Portlandia.
As for the songs themselves even though they are produced by John Goodmanson who helped the band on their earlier raw fantastic albums (One Beat, Dig Me Out, All Hands On The Bad One) there is clearly tons more sonic polish this go around. A track like "Gimme Love" is a nuanced disco rocker that could have wide-range appeal but songs like "Fangless" bring back the two guitar machine which Brownstein and Corin Tucker slip into with ease.
The opener "Price Tag" is classic SK in every way, Tucker lyrically addressing actual economy, spiritual costs, or political acquiescence while the band gets back into their twin guitar groove majestically. For a band that famously doesn't use bass, "A New Wave" gets awfully close to that sound as the dance vibe pops back up. The other member of the trio Janet Weiss takes center stage on "Surface Envy" with her skin pounding, but the song also hints excitingly at noise rock flair with scratchy/digital guitars in the background.
"No Anthems" states there aren't any, but itself is anthemic as is the first single "Bury Our Friends" which takes a pumping chorus and puts out the positive vibe of not giving in, even in this bizarre new gilded age. These tracks on other albums would be clear highlights, but here they are just part of the amazing tapestry from SK's comeback disk.
The tunes are tight and efforts like the very pop leaning "Hey Darling" are balanced out with closer "Fade" which hints at The Woods mega rock. If there is one complaint it may be the band never cuts loose to those realms, seeming to veer for drum tight with this offering. Hopefully the reunion continues because this doesn't feel like a one off, rather a rebirth and where the band goes next could be even more exciting then No Cities To Love.
We dig on Sleater-Kinney hard. So we had high hopes for this disk and for the most part those were completely met. Wouldn't mind a few more solos next time though as Brownstein can cook.
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