Sleater Kinney broke up 10 years ago with a 7 album long discography filled with incredible Indie Rock and Punk music. Sleater Kinney were a band that sung about 9/11, Feminism and consumerism and had a brilliant and gradual progression in their 10 year lifespan. Their influence is large as well with modern-day artists like St Vincent and Perfume Genius sighting them as playing a part in shaping their sound. Their last album ‘The Woods’ left fans feeling good as it was their most ambitious, experimental and progressive album yet. After 10 years away, Sleater Kinney are now back to the delight of many music fans, but if you’re expecting them to have continued from where they left off with ‘The Woods’ think again – this album’s sound heads down the road of back-to-basics indie rock.
This album calls back to more of Sleater Kinney’s earlier records and it’s even produced by John Goodmanson who produced four of the band’s earlier records. This isn’t any sort of regression though as the band’s song-writing has definitely become more sophisticated but no less fun. Sleater Kinney are still creating incredibly inventive instrumentals on this album as they always have. Their drummer Janet Weiss offers up some very precise, intense and fantastic grooves on this album like on the song ‘Fangless’ which finds her being the star of the show showing how drumming can be the more encapsulating than vocals can at times. Elsewhere it’s the chemistry in the guitar work that seriously sets Sleater Kinney apart from other bands. Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein’s guitar riffs interweave around each other so elegantly it’s a miracle they still manage to sound so damn chaotic. Catchy riffs that all stick in your head like glue run throughout this record even when the guitar tones are done in quite an unconventional manner such as the title track (Just watch this video of all these celebrities singing along to it). The guitar tones are really thin and scratchy and they’re played almost like a jamming session at times – they’re not the sort you’d expect to sound as full and as fun as they are on this album.
Instrumentally isn’t the only strong point with their melodies either as their vocal melodies are often what actually carry this record. Their verses are often less melodic and more hard-hitting which only make the choruses much more explosive like the opening track ‘Price Tag’ which by the end has so my melodies flowing together than it becomes a testament as to how well they can pen catchy songs when they’re together as band. Lead singer Corin Tucker’s vocals are often very over the top which only adds to hard their choruses can hit you like on the track ‘A New Wave’ which has both one of the smoothest choruses on the album and one of the most chaotic verses. Tucker does occasionally overdo her vocals so it can become jarring like the track ‘No Anthems’ but never enough to straight up ruin a track.
It would appear that the emotive side of Sleater Kinney seen on records like ‘The Woods’ is a lot more toned down as well as this album sounds more as if they were just trying to have fun especially in the lyrics. Tucker sings of the band’s place in modern music and how they feel about the state of music that they left in and the people they were around. This is a lot more of a self-aware Sleater Kinney than before and even the topics that they tackle that are familiar to their old discography are performed with a certain grace that comes with age. On ‘Price Tag’ they’re singing about how we as consumers never bother checking the price tag of things we just go by our natural instincts to buy whatever looks like a bargain. On the title track they’re telling us about how no City is going to be better than the one you’re in right now and that it’s just human nature to always want something more and to crave what we haven’t got. These are themes that are well worn throughout music and even in Sleater Kinney’s discography but they manage to perform them in a way that doesn’t sound like they’re slapping you in the face with it.
Sleater Kinney don’t sound anywhere near as ground-breaking or seminal as they did when they first started; if you haven’t heard any of this band’s previous material you might think it just sounds like decent Indie rock, and you’d be right. But the astonishing thing is that even at 20 years old Sleater Kinney still sound like they’re a new band just emerging from the underground and are as hungry as ever to make some music that people will appreciate. This is a very successful comeback.
Best Track: Price Tag, No Cities To Love, A New Wave