Monday, February 9th, 2015

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

Did you guys read those Jukebox blurbs about the new Sleater-Kinney song?


Brad Shoup: They went into this wanting to not make another Sleater-Kinney record, which puzzles me a little, since a Sleater-Kinney record can sound like a hell of a lot. Here, at least, the sound is poppier. It sounds like they built out from the refrain — Tucker and Brownstein attack it from the same elevation, drawling it like a snide joke. As usual, the bass and guitar are two helices warping around each other, holding a dialogue. Still, they could have that conversation in their sleep, and despite their best intentions, there’s a listlessness here that works too well with the text. The lyric gets to a rousing place by the last line, but it’s quite a turn.

Alfred Soto: I’ve written about what this project lacks: “the symbiosis by which the singer-guitarists matched, answered, and countered the other’s words and riffs.” Beginning with Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein harmonizing on the chorus before dropping out for the riff, this track refutes that thesis. The guitar talk is more eloquent than the smart words too. But the rest proceeds along suitably anthemic lines — that is, until Brownstein sings, trembling, “I’ve grown afraid of everything I love.”

Anthony Easton: A kind of rejoinder to Portlandia, or maybe LCD Soundsystem’s “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” If Sasha Frere Jones was right, and the mark of Sleater Kinney is how they were anthemic without being necessarily on message, and if the previous single off this album was as explicitly political as they have been, then this track continues the album’s chief message: the exhaustion of potential in the 1990s. This is more formally open and it has room to breathe, but with that breath comes a kind of anxiety. Mary Timony’s guitar sounds kind of surfy, and the drums are in beat, and Brownstein’s voice is as profound as ever, but the negotiation between not having anyone to love and loving a place beyond reason is carried on the back of an explicit desire to confuse expectations. I don’t think that this is the best song on the album, but it is one that might reward the closest readings. 

Crystal Leww: I’ve expressed an extraordinary amount of dismay for the album format before, but still, there are plenty of bands that operate much better in that format. “No Cities to Love” on its own is a much less exciting song than in the context of its album. Without the other 29 minutes, this comes off as a little too easy as a Rock Song with a Chorus. And for all the bitching about how nonsensical Ariana Grande’s “Break Free” was lyrically, this chorus is much, much worse. It’s February in Chicago, and Sleater-Kinney are straight up wrong about loving the weather or the nothing or the people. Nope, I’m obviously here because of the city, y’all.

Jonathan Bradley: I love songs about cities. The best of them illuminate entire lives, the communities in which they’re lived, and the way spatial geography can interact with histories and individual experience to create an entity that outlasts the people and parapets from which it was formed. We tell ourselves stories in order to live — and Didion’s Inland Empire, for instance, is something that exists outside and beyond the bounds of that place — and we tell ourselves stories about cities in order to explain how we live in them. Sleater-Kinney does not love cities, and though they and I might be able to agree to disagree on that count, it makes it difficult when detente comes in the form of modest, mid-tempo, mid-range modern rock. City songs have specificity. “It’s the weather we love,” is the chorus. Fine — but this is a forty degree day.

Juana Giaimo: The line “it’s not the cities, it’s the weather we love” has been in my mind since the moment I first listened to it. It’s frivolous and partly funny because it’s partly true. Don’t we all check the weather for the rest of the day before leaving our houses? Don’t we think about the weather before visiting or moving to a place? As if it wasn’t cold enough, the next line, “it’s not the weather, it’s the nothing we love,” is a exclamation of pure apathy. Because there’s a moment in the city, in which not even the weather is exciting anymore. We just walk through streets we know so well that are blurred, we’ve stopped paying attention at car horns, we simply hope motorcycles don’t bump into us, and we don’t care anymore about touching people we’ve never met before and will never see again. Maybe the life of the city needs apathy. But could it be true that “it’s not the weather, it’s the people we love”? The more I listen to it, the more ironic it gets. 

Katherine St Asaph: You’d think a track noisifying my exact views on cities, by a band I’m generally positive about, would do more for me. You’d think I’d love anywhere I’ve lived, too.

Mark Sinker: The first time I watched Portlandia, I laughed non-stop and enjoyed it enormously. But the law of diminishing returns set in fast, and now I can’t even quite recall what I liked so much back then. I own Sleater-Kinney records: I never play them these days. I’ve loved songs by people I dislike intensely, and vice-versa now and then. I can’t imagine deliberately returning to this to find out which type it is, though I suppose it could sneak up on me when I’m not expecting it. 

Thomas Inskeep: I mean, really, it’s like the college-rock dream of the ’90s is still alive. This is a solid, slightly angular rock record, and I will forever never get why everyone goes so apeshit over S-K. “No Cities To Love” is fine, but doesn’t particularly do anything, for me at least.

John Seroff: Like the S-K dilettante I am, I rated Dig Me Out fairly high but now associate the band more with Portlandia than their music. “No Cities” is fine dad-rock but, without its pedigree, I doubt I would’ve ruminated on it as long as I have.

Micha Cavaseno: I guess everyone’s entitled to their own boring rock songs for karaoke night.

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