Not their best and not very ambitious, but it seems like No Cities to Love is their happiest album, maybe because they’re finally in a room together after a decade of being apart or maybe because Bush isn’t the president anymore or maybe because Interpol has been filtered out of collective consciousness, and some people might mistake happiness for complacency. To wit, some of these songs sport some of their catchiest choruses that are mostly sung instead of shouted while the funky “Fangless” over a synth bed is their most danceable song (though “Fangless”‘s lyrics are classic S-K). Despite the verses of “No Cities to Love”’s talk of suicide and the most frightening line I’ve heard in a while (“My body is a souvenir”), and despite what Carrie Brownstein has said about said verses (“The character in that song has made a ritual out of seeking structures and people in which to find strength, yet they keep coming up empty”), the choruses provide the answer, with the band rejecting the atomic cities and turning to something as unpredictable as the weather before ultimately deciding that “It’s not the weather, it’s the people we love”. And with a video that loveable, how could you not agree with them?
But Sleater-Kinney have never been complacent; only consistent, and of these ten songs, only the short “Gimme Love,” verging on annoyance in its stop-start choruses and sludgy guitar solo, doesn’t connect (it’s also the album’s shortest song; you’ll live). But the guitar riff of the anti-capitalist “Price Tag,” the harmonies of “A New Wave,” Corin Tucker’s rhythms powering “No Anthems” and her drumrolls leading into the surprisingly march-like (despite its twitchy guitar riff) choruses of “Bury Our Friends” and the descending melody in the choruses of “Hey Darling” (even it that’s all there is to it) are more than enough to make up for it. On about the tenth playthrough of the album today, the right side of my trusty headphones started emitting that all-too familiar and sinister buzzing noise signifying its impending death; I guess too much Sleater-Kinney was just too much for my Sennheisers to handle.