“We sound possessed on these songs,” says Carrie Brownstein about Sleater-Kinney’s eighth album, No Cities to Love. “Willing it all–the entire weight of the band and what it means to us–back into existence.” After the nearly ten year hiatus since their last release–over which period generated a pretty damn excellent album by their side band Wild Flag, as well as a couple solo albums and a hit tv show–the champions of the riot grrrl movement are back. But they still don’t seem to understand the gooch-tingling-glory that adding the low end of bass into the mix brings about!
Jokes aside, the all-female power trio that is Sleater-Kinney absolutely shreds. Earning herself a much disserved spot on Rolling Stone’s list of 25 most underrated guitarists back in 2006, Carrie Brownstein’s frenetic and riff-heavy guitar playing can still silence even the most ripping of rippers. And, coupled with the explosive time-keeping of Janet Weiss’s drumming, which can compete with the greats like Bohnam and Grohl, these grrrls are some of the heaviest hitters in an all too male-dominated rock and roll industry.
Compared to the group’s previous seven albums, No Cities to Love pays more robust attention to the melodies and hooks between their bouts of dark and heavy experimentation, but not in a cheesy Billboard type way, the sound still remains entirely gritty and raw. “Hey Darling” is a perfect example with Blondie-reminiscent new wave punk verses surrounded by power-pop choruses that draw early No Doubt to mind. Darker, heavier burners “Surface Envy” and “No Anthems” have an air of post-hardcore with dueling progy guitar noodlage feverishly spattered about.
It’s clear that prolonged break and a glimpse into celebrity life (at least for Carrie) have not dulled the daggers on these powerful female rockers; rather it gave them a chance to look at the bigger picture and do things even better. Rounding out the end of a three month tour in support of No Cities to Love, Sleater-Kinney will play at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on May 5. And whenever Portlandia finally goes belly-up (like it should have four seasons ago), maybe Sleater-Kinney can hire Fred Armisen to play bass and help turn his dirty unemployed clown frown right upside down. But for real though, welcome back S-K. »
– Travis Leipzig