Music

Unsurprisingly, Sleater-Kinney makes its comeback album count

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Rocklandia: (From left) Tucker, Weiss and Brownstein are Sleater-Kinney-ing again.
Annie Zaleski

Sleater-Kinney No Cities to Love

Four stars

The members of Sleater-Kinney kept busy during their band’s hiatus. Janet Weiss played with Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and in supergroup Wild Flag, which also featured Carrie Brownstein (of Portlandia fame), while Corin Tucker released two underrated solo albums. When the three women join forces in Sleater-Kinney, however, few bands can match the power they unleash.

No Cities to Love—the feminist-punk trio’s first album in a decade—is no-nonsense, precise and inspiring, with a diverse set of musical influences. The scratchy post-punk guitars on “Surface Envy” are reminiscent of Gang of Four; the churning classic rock flourishes on “Fade” recall Heart’s ’70s output; “Fangless” boasts corrugated pogo-punk riffs; “Gimme Love” stutter-steps on a foundation of clipped blues slams; and “A New Wave” oozes with grimy hard-rock distortion.

No Cities to Love’s lyrical themes are just as galvanizing. Although the record touches on politics—“Price Tag” is a moving indictment of a broken economic system, where savings come at a steep cost—the album’s main focus is on correcting emotional and social imbalances: reclaiming a lost sense of self (“Fade”), recalibrating out-of-whack power dynamics (“Fangless”) and regaining self-confidence (“Surface Envy”). Appropriately, the band’s vocal delivery underscores a secondary theme of strength in numbers; tunes such as “Bury Our Friends” and “Price Tag” feature the welcome presence of Brownstein’s and Tucker’s intertwining shrieks, which convey frustration, joy and longing with equal urgency.

Like every Sleater-Kinney album, No Cities to Love sounds like nothing else that came before it in the band’s catalog. It’s singular even in its complexity and nuance.

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