Recorded in secret in early 2014, seven years after they began their 'extended hiatus,' No Cities to Love is as daring and playful as its head-spinning provenance, and offers sweet relief to the fingers-crossed hardcore. That they managed to regroup under cover is one thing; that they return in this kind of shape is something else entirely. In an era of cheap-shot reformations, Sleater-Kinney pull the plug on the past and flick the switch on the future.
"It's 9am, we must clock in / The system waits for us," sings Corin Tucker on opener Price Tag, but No Cities to Love has scope beyond mere state-of-the-nation politicking. Album number eight models breadth both lyrical and sonic. Those who found 2005's The Woods (the neo-grunge battery designed, as Brownstein claimed, to split their fanbase) ultimately too bruising can rest easy. Wave goodbye to overdrive overload and crushing power chords. A cleaner mix showcases Janet Weiss's drums and Tucker's savage vibrato: both as distinct and exceptional as ever.
Much of the album's sinewy melodics – and No Cities to Love is unexpectedly, joyously tuneful – come via a re-jig of the Brownstein/Tucker dynamic, the latter's guitar tuned down and making space for Brownstein's snaggy riffs. Charged with a vitality akin to their early recordings, each of these ten songs erupts: the epic, tempo-switching Fade; the nervy title track ("I've grown afraid of everything I love"); Hey Darling and its irresistible, monster hook. Electrifying throughout, Sleater-Kinney bristle with an energy that threatens to drain the grid.