Ryan and Matt listen to and discuss Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities to Love.
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- No Cities To Love (affiliate link)
- Wikipedia: Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
- No Cities to Love Lyrics
- NYT Piece on the recording of the album
- P4K Review
- “No Cities To Love” video
- Meredith Graves’s blog post on Sleater-Kinney
First and foremost, this album is super good. I actually only started listening to Sleater-Kinney last year, but I now consider them among my favorite bands, because their music is most excellent. Although I prefer the mid-90s combo of Call the Doctor and Dig Me Out in terms of their output, even though the former was their last album before Janet Weiss joined the band and they became “Sleater-Kinney” as they are thought of. I am not entirely sure if that strengthens or weakens the notion of Sleater-Kinney existing as a whole rather than a series of parts.
Also, on Twitter Sleater-Kinney’s account tweeted a photo of the old flyer that Carrie Brownstein posted when they were looking for a drummer, and they listed the Buzzcocks as a reference point, so I take issue with her notion that they are sui generis as a band. Also, because other bands sound like them.
All I know is that this could, potentially, be a huge year for musicians coming out of the woodwork. We’ve got Sleater-Kinney. Silver Jews are working on new stuff. If that, and DOOMSTARKS, both actually come out, 2015 is going to be a grand year for music.
Thanks for covering this outstanding album. It seems to me that S-K is one of those bands that is both enormously important and relatively unknown, and it’s great to see that they are getting lots of buzz for No Cities to Love.
I would agree with Chris that the Brownstein’s claim of complete originality is somewhat overstated. As a specific example from this album, the opening riff of “Bury our Friends” bears a good deal of resemblance to the hook of Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” (and I am not the first to make that observation). And “Hey Darling” sounds to me like it could have been off a mid-career Pretenders record, complete with Hynde-esque vocals that are stylistically rather different from the usual sneer and vibrato roar of S-K. (One could also stretch the point and observe echoes of Zep’s “Dancing Days” in the guitar opening of “No Anthem”.)
But that is not to undercut just how fresh this album sounds. It’s a relief to hear music that doesn’t have that layer of over-polished production-sheen common to so much pop and rock these days. There is an immediacy and, yeah, I suppose “authenticity” that comes across, from the urgent guitar work to raw vocals that have never been near Auto-tune. To put it another way, They Are For Real.
I’m still working through the album lyrically, but as a first pass I think it’s really interesting how much assertions are made in the negative. “There are no cities to love”, “It’s not a new wave”, “I’m not an anthem”, “[you’re] fangless”, “weapons, not violence”, etc. So much of what gets claimed is a rejection of a quality or characteristic, especially characteristics associated with rock and punk. And what gets positively asserted seems instead to be connection: “It’s not the weather it’s the people we love”; “It’s not a new wave it’s just you and me”. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that a mature band, with members who have raised families and gone on to do other things, would value human relationships over the other trappings, but I think it is also great to see a kick-ass rock band extol the virtues of friendship and family.