Sleater-Kinney keeps breaking rules with album 'No Cities to Love'

By Jordan Cissell

Sleater-Kinney keeps breaking rules with album 'No Cities to Love'

Sleater-Kinney is celebrating success on their new album “No Cities to Love”. Amazon

“We win, we lose. Only 
together do we break the rules.”

From the moment they groped and clawed their way to the top of the Pacific Northwest’s riot grrrl scene in the mid-1990s, those words – the chorus of “Surface Envy” from Sleater-Kinney’s new album “No Cities to Love” – have served as a sort of mantra for three ladies who, along with other riot grrrl mavericks like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile, made their bread and butter in kicking butt, taking names and proving once and for all that being a dude is not a prerequisite for working a guitar or a drum kit.

But it’s been 10 years since Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss last broke the rules together with “The Woods” in 2005, and the decade witnessed more than a handful of up-and-coming musical malefactors emerge during the hiatus. Don’t think for a second Sleater-Kinney didn’t notice.

“Bury Our Friends” kicks off amidst layers of overdriven guitar that evoke a distorted, aggressive take on the main riff in The Black Keys’ 2010 hit “Tighten Up.” The staccato harmonies of the song’s chorus coalesce in an upward lilt over the elastic bass groove of Franz Ferdinand’s most danceable tracks.

Mostly they sound just like themselves, however. Tucker’s banshee wail hasn’t mellowed one bit. Brownstein still knows how to force a guitar, bucking and diving every step of the way, through elliptical riffs and overdriven chord sequences. Weiss deftly maneuvers between gut-punching boom-pop power strikes and snaky coils of tightly wound groove, often in the same song. “No Cities to Love” is a relentless 33-minute vector of Sleater-Kinney cutting loose on 10 years of pure, pent-up 
rock ‘n’ roll.

The aforementioned chorus of “Surface Envy” dive-bombs into a looping guitar break that chugs along underneath explosive snare crashes supported by a pulsing bass throb.

Brownstein’s fuzzed-out boll weevil of a guitar riff that bores into the meat of “A New Wave” operates in complete independence of Weiss’ demented interpretation of a classic surf rock snare-snapping drum sequence. Brownstein’s yelp is quintessential riot grrrl, simultaneously conveying both snark and ecstasy.

On the title track, Brownstein displays a similar disregard for enunciatory consistency, vacillating between “sitties” and “cit-AYs” as she repeatedly yelps the titular chorus over the ironclad, watertight weave of two 
overlapping guitar lines.

Put this album on, and try not to nod your head. Sleater-Kinney will double dare you.

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