After a decade long hiatus, and 20 years since their debut, it seems inconceivable that a band can still sound so relevant and urgent. Yet with the release of their eighth studio album, the trio behind the influential punk rock band, Sleater-Kinney, have released one of the most assured, confident, fierce, and downright thrilling, rock records in recent memory. The choruses are tighter, the lyrics are as intelligent as ever; it seems with maturity, they have learnt how to allow for accessibility, without sacrificing individuality, or creativity.
Announcing their intentions immediately, opener “Price Tag” has one of the most Marxist lines in the entire record, “It’s 9AM, we must clock in, the system waits for us.” Putting society into question; without the willing workers, would the system still exist? This is then followed by the album highlight, “No Cities to Love”, where the chorus brings to light the well-known thought experiment, Theseus’ paradox. “It’s not the city, it’s the weather we love! It’s not the weather, it’s the nothing we love!” Are we invested in our love for the city itself? Or are we in love with the very self of the city?
The album’s best track however, lies in the lead single, “Bury Our Friends”. Led by a joyous dual vocal, an effortless guitar riff, and an anthemic chorus; this ode to immortality, and resistance to age, will be one of the year’s best singles. The direct successor to that, “Hey Darling”, is another album standout, expressing disillusionment with fame to the stuttering, captivating, sound of joyous guitars.
At 33 minutes and just ten tracks, there is no filler on the record. This is undoubtedly one of the best albums in the year; and we can expect to hear it referenced all throughout the year in discussions. But even more important, it could well be their own personal best record. Looking back, despite their unwillingness to be categorised (“No outline will ever hold us, it’s not a new wave”), Sleater-Kinney were themselves an integral cog in the machinery that was the riot grrrl movement; their feminist and left-wing perspectives serving as an inspiration to any-and-all women listening. The impact of the movement is ever-present, with bands like Ex Hex releasing their riveting debut last year, as well as the exciting Spanish teenagers, Mourn.
Their politically charged lyrics have remained a large part of their success, yet they never irritate the casual listener, generally expressed eloquently enough to escape passers-by. Acerbic in its comments toward societal change, and the diminishing of the middle class, the trio find themselves as vital as ever. While not revolutionary, No Cities to Love is more an exploration of past glories, of their success, and of their age. With this age and maturity, comes a confidence. And with this confidence, these women sound younger than ever.