The question posed by Sleater-Kinney‘s first new album in nearly a decade is, can you still be a group of riot grrrls when one of your members in now a red-carpet-walking celebrity and American Express pitchwoman and another is a mother of two?
A few songs into No Cities to Love the answer is an emphatic YES. Like the band’s previous seven efforts, the new album is loud, proud and unapologetic. But it acts the band members’ ages, approaching 40-something life with a wise and weathered perspective. For S-K’s fellow-forthysomething fans, it is an affirmation that you can grow up and still approach life with the same attitude and vigor of your 20s. And for those whose only connection to the band is being fans of guitarist and singer Carrie Browstein’s sketch comedy show Portlandia, with Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen (himself the frontman for Late Night with Seth Meyers’ 8G Band), No Cities is confirmation that she once was and still is a formidable rocker.
With Brownstein reunited with singer and guitarist Corin Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss, the trio pretty much picks up where it left off, though with a looser feel than 2006’s arena-aspiring The Woods. Price Tag sets an aggressive tone for the album as a middle class rant with Brownstein and Tucker tuned low — as usual, so we really don’t miss the bass — and Weiss pounding with authority. The ladies haven’t exactly been resting on their catalog since going on hiatus in 2006. Browsnstein and Weiss even reteamed in the quartet Wild Flag and Tucker has released solo projects, among other endeavors.
If there is a difference, it is a polished sound coming from more experience and resources. But in all, No Cities to Love is as strong and relevant a reunion record as we’ve heard in years. Sleater-Kinney serves as an affirmation that you can grow older, wiser and more experienced without losing your vital edge.