ALBUM REVIEW: Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

Rating8fa887a94Few bands know when to call it quits, the good ones calling time when they are still a potent musical entity, still at the top of their game. Sleater-Kinney never put a foot wrong in the first decade of their existence, churning out eight excellent albums that were immediately recognisable as the work of Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss. In 2005 they stepped away to explore other projects and now, a decade later, they have returned sounding as vital and restlessly creative as ever.

From the opening track ‘Price Tag’ that jerking, yelping sound is present though now there is a shinier, modern production sheen which enhances the trio’s intricate interplay as counterpoint riffs fire missives over Weiss’ big beat. Themes of consumerism and the search for love and identity in the 21st century are woven into the ten songs that comprise the half hour album, that brevity a key factor in the rush and thrill of the music. The songs are lean, Brownstein managing to meld Talking Heads, Fugazi, Gang of Four and Guns N’ Roses into her playing making this an air-guitar rock record as much as a post-punk treatise on modern life. The choruses of the title track, ‘No Anthems’ and ‘A New Wave’ show how well they nail hooks and a certain pop quality amid their underground alt-rock leanings. No Cities To Love should be held up as the template for a band reconvening and reigniting with renewed vigour, urgency and musical creativity.

Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

ALBUM REVIEW: Wild Flag | Wild Flag

written by Chris Familton

Carrie Brownstein has become something of an indie superstar in recent years with her commentaries on NPR, the TV series Portlandia that she co-wrote and stars in and of course her history in the righteous rock band Sleater Kinney. Now she has re-emerged musically in Wild Flag, a four piece that also includes Mary Timony (ex-Helium), Rebecca Cole and Sleater Kinney drummer Janet Weiss. Their debut album takes that raw and confrontational sound of Sleater Kinney and marries it with more melodic songwriting in places, garage rock flavours and a wonderful balance of both fun and serious rock n roll.

The first single Romance opens the LP and is a statement of intent with its tumbling drums and off-kilter guitar lines that surge and stumble gloriously before a heady and triumphant chorus soars high . It is probably the closest to Brownstein’s previous work than anything else on the album and it works effectively as the stepping off point for the new project.

Mary Timony takes lead on the much softer and melodically subtle Something Came Over Me showing a different side to the Wild Flag. Her voice is more indie pop than indie rock without sacrificing the tough garage rock vibe that runs through the record. That vibe is enhanced by the magnificent production quality – all warm closeness, clarity of instrumental separation and a lack of processing and overt compression to the sound of the album. The way they have constructed songs that allow each instrument to both harmonise and contradict each other is a constant source of delight. It keeps the songs alive and evolving with a rough and ready fluidity that constantly throws up sonic surprises like the chop and change dynamics of album closer Black Tiles.

One of the closest links to the garage rock vein is the sound of Rebecca Cole’s keyboards, primarily the swirling organ she often employs. It adds a contrast to the sharp-riffing guitars and often replaces the bottom end where bass guitar would normally reside. On Endless Talk she leads the dancing melody of the song, taking it in the vicinity of some of the sounds that were emitting from Dunedin, New Zealand across the 80s.

Simplicity is another key to the success of this debut. Electric Band relies on super primitive drumming to propel Timony’s delightful ode to playing in a rock band. The same approach is taken on Future Crimes but it is injected with an urgency that makes it feel like it is about to collapse in on itself at any moment. Like all great garage and punk rock songs it has that surge and insistency that heats the blood and quickens the pulse. Wild Flag sound like they are on the front foot, holding nothing back and relishing the chance to play dynamic, lively music together. This isn’t stupid, basic rock music, far from it. It is intelligent, lean and energising rock n roll.

this review first appeared on The Dwarf