Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love

"Everyone has got to realise you can't hold onto the past if you want any future. Each second should lead to the next one." - Joe Strummer

'Don't go back,' they say, with a wisdom that only comes from bitter experience. But the pull is strong, whether it's from the roar of the crowd, the lure of the cheque book or the familiar scent of a lover, and many do indeed go back. It hardly ever plays out well. So the news of the return - not a re-union they say, but a 'continuation' - of Sleater-Kinney after nine years away is inevitably tempered by an understanding that whatever the motivation, such moves are riven with danger.

In their absence, their reputation has grown; it's worth bearing in mind that at the point of their commercial peak (2005's The Woods) they never rose much above playing venues like Leeds' Cockpit - in the the UK at least - but are now booked for a largely sold out theatre tour. Well received solo albums from Corin Tucker and Wild Flag (featuring Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss) half slaked that demand, but No Cities To Love is, thankfully, a thrilling work that, while conscious of what has gone before, is enough proof that this is no nostalgic hit-and-run.

What's enervating about No Cities ... is its sheer vitality. Pulling back from the heavier riff-rock of their last album, Tucker and Brownstein re-visit the intricate guitar interplay on which the Verlaine-Lloyd of the post-Riot Grrrl rock scene made their name. From the downward elevator slide of 'Surface Envy' to the skittering 'Fade', producer Jon Goodmanson captures the trio at their most alive, with Weiss the ever-steady hand on the tiller. Phew - it's the Sleater-Kinney we knew and loved, able to throw out a hook so huge ('Hey Darling') it could haul in Moby Dick before breakfast.

An album that concerns itself with jaded consumerism ('Price Tag') and the "mediocrity" of fame ('Hey Darling') suggests an act restless with the now. As such, it's tempting to read S-K's return as one driven by a frustration that no-one properly grasped their proferred mantle. "There are no anthems / And all I can hear is the echo," they say, and for a band bottle fed on The Clash and Bikini Kill, that these turbulent times are not similarly soundtracked must be troubling. They have a default, and it's that "There is no roadblock I couldn't unblock," and as such No Cities ... is the rare modern record that asks its audience not just to listen, but to find a voice and, maybe, act.

Wow. The Righteous Sisters are back - and how.




out of 10
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