Album Listening Club – No Cities to Love discussion

I’ll just put this out there: I’ve not had a lot of experience listening to Sleater-Kinney. Yes, they’re quite amazing and powerful. I think I even have one of their CDs, probably All Hands On The Bad One.

Sleater-Kinney: Janet Weiss, Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker | Photo by Brigitte Sire courtesy Shore Fire Media

Having formed in 1994, the band has been on hiatus for the past eight years. All of the band members have been busy with solo projects, playing or forming other bands, or being in a TV show, and this reunion seemed to come out of nowhere. The press release announcing the album & re-formation of the band even mentioned that the studio sessions in early 2014 were secret.

The secret is out now, though – the band is currently on tour, and will be playing a sold-out show in Your Older Brother’s hometown of Denver this Thursday.

I have enormous respect for Sleater-Kinney, even though I’m not a constant listener. Listening to this record will be, for me, like it was listening to Jack White’s Lazaretto – picking up the new without a huge history of the old.

So, sisters and brothers – what do we think of No Cities to Love?

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February 9, 2015 at 9:16 am

Had heard a song or two & even lived in the fair city of Portlandia for decades since they played there often but still was not compelled to check them out further (reference to the show fully intended since Carrie Brownstein stars in it). I then heard the first single off the new album 'Bury Our Friends' and was hooked. My only complaint of this album is that it's not long enough. It just flat out moves & rocks out and is just a plain fun listen. I've listened to a few of their older albums and they obviously have learned how to write catchier, better songs in the ten years since their last album 'The Woods'.

I doubt I'll listen much to their other albums that I've listened to after 'Bury Our Friends' came out. I've definitely listened to this new one A LOT though and love it.

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
February 11, 2015 at 5:43 am

My thoughts before I respond to August – I like this record ok. I understand that Corin's vocals aren't for everyone, and they're mostly not for me. However, the band started in the wake of PJ Harvey who teased a similar style on "Sheela-Na-Gig," and Throwing Muses before that, I can see where they might have been inspired, vocally speaking. The women in SK had their own bands before SK as well, and hearing PJ Harvey along with Huggy Bear and the other riot grrrl bands of the Pacific Northwest must have given them a wide berth to be exactly who they wanted to be.

As I said, though, I like the record well enough. It won't be in heavy rotation for me, but I dig "No Cities To Love" and "Hey Darling," and some others as well. I really like bands with strong dual-guitar interplay like this. Watched the video of their performance of "A New Wave" on Letterman and it was fairly rockin'.

February 12, 2015 at 10:02 am

I can definitely hear the PJ & TM influences in their sound now that you mention it, but neither band came to mind since I've listened to them. I also get what you're saying about Corin's vocals not being for you. There are popular artists who's voices I can only deal w/in small doses like Lou Reed & Leonard Cohen but adore their songwriting skill.

So it looks like we're the last remaining remnants of this group. C'est la vie.

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
February 13, 2015 at 8:31 pm

Yeah, I can't listen to Tom Waits purely because of his voice. Bleah. It seems/feels so affected. I was just having a conversation with a friend about Bernard Sumner's (New Order) voice and my friend was saying that Bernard's singing on Low-Life is so bad that it kind of ruins the record for him. For me, it's charmingly out of tune.

I think – for me – that Corin's vocals fall into the Tom Waits category for me, when she does the high/fast vibrato thing. I completely respect her sound as an artist and what she does. Unfortunately it's just not for me. Again, which isn't to say that I don't like the band or the music – the music is awesome.

Re: only remaining foks – I'm hoping more folks will comment this weekend as they have time. This post has only been up for a week. 🙂

February 15, 2015 at 8:03 am

Ha! I adore Waits but I can see what you mean. He's a supreme actor, so yea his voice is affected. I love his warbling as I do Sumner's off key version. Low Life is my fave NO album & my intro to them so it holds a special place in my heart. I bought the LP sheerly since the album art was so f'n cool. I think we've had this convo before about this album haha.

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
February 16, 2015 at 2:51 pm

You mention that they learned how to write catchier, "better" songs since "The Woods," and that's part of my question about SK – were they ever trying to write "catchy" songs? It seems that's part of the ethos of the band, or was. Very basic punk rock – "We're not going to sound the way you want us to sound," writing completely from the heart and soul, without any pretense or ambitions of fitting into the mainstream. Perhaps they've known how to write catchy songs all along, but just didn't want to. 🙂

February 18, 2015 at 7:23 am

I'd posit that most punk/post punk artists (hell, all artists really) start out w/that DIY ethos of just jumping in & playing w/o knowing much about music.Then over time they learn the intricacies of playing & the musicianship involved and their skills improve. Certainly there are exceptions but they're the rarity.

Perhaps SK were fooling fans all along but I doubt it.

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
February 18, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Right, and I guess my thought is that SK started in the mid 90's and Tucker & Brownstein had both been in bands before that as well. They released 7 albums as SK before breaking for 10 years and releasing No Cities. I think that's plenty of time to learn their craft and want to write catchy songs, if indeed that's what they wanted to do. A song like "You're No Rock & Roll Fun" off 2000's All Hands On The Bad One definitely strikes me as catchy.

Perhaps if people with more history with the band could chime in. 😀 Or maybe Tucker or Brownstein themselves!

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