It’s not supposed to be this easy. Late last year, HBO’s The Comeback returned for a second season after nearly a decade off the air, and it was better than ever. Another relic from 2005 also just made their grand, well, comeback: Sleater-Kinney, who separated/went on hiatus/whatever you want to call it after The Woods, only to announce a surprise album, No Cities to Love, and sold-out tour. And to paraphrase Valerie Cherish: I DO want to hear that.
Sub Pop released Cities at midnight, so I haven’t had as much time to sit with it as I’d like, but it’s immediately clear that this is a very good-to-great album. There’s no “we’re back” throat-clearing; “Price Tag” is a stomper, and the hook-filled fierceness never ceases over the next nine songs. The title track, the pounding “No Anthems,” the yelping “Surface Envy” — these are focused, concise statements that make their point in under four minutes, then move along.
I’m a defender of The Woods — even the double-digit epic “Let’s Call It Love” — but it’s still refreshing to hear Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker’s angular, adventurous guitar-playing and Janet Weiss’ commanding drumming in such short bursts, like they sounded on Call the Doctor or Dig Me Out. “Bury Our Friends” is breathless, teeming with uptempo anxiety, while “Fangless” is anything but. If The Woods was Sleater’s Who’s Next, then No Cities to Love is The Who Sings My Generation — raw energy that will resonate for years to come, when Cities‘ follow-up is out.