Sleater-Kinney, “No Cities to Love” (Sub Pop; 2015)

“Perhaps it was inevitable that Sleater-Kinney would reunite. They parted ways in 2006 claiming that it was a hiatus, not a dissolution, thereby leaving the door open for a comeback — a comeback that arrived nearly ten years after the group faded away. Smartly, Sleater-Kinney don’t pick up the threads left hanging by the knotty, roiling The Woods. They acknowledge the decade they spent apart, a decade where all three members pursued very different paths: Corin Tucker turned toward domesticity then founded her own punk-blues band, drummer Janet Weiss played with Stephen Malkmus before re-teaming with Carrie Brownstein in Wild Flag, an indie supergroup that provided Brownstein a breather from her newfound fame as a television star. In short, all three spent ten years living their lives and those lives can be felt throughout No Cities to Love, a record that neatly balances urgency and maturation. Purposefully short — the album weighs in at barely over a half-hour — and conspicuously bereft of slow songs (the slow churn of the closing “Fade” is the only contender), No Cities to Love feels breathless but it also finds room to breathe. Previously when Sleater-Kinney stretched out musically, they were assisted by an outside producer — they hired Roger Moutenot for The Hot Rock, Dave Fridmann for The Woods — but here, they reunite with producer John Goodmanson, who helmed every other one of the trio’s records, and that familiarity is a key to the success to No Cities to Love. Sleater-Kinney worked on these ten songs over the course of two years, deliberately ditching songs that recalled the past (“Hey Darling” comes closest to evoking the old rush), a move that often results in complex syncopated rhythms (more than the group flirt with a disco-rock pulse) and rich, multi-layered melodic hooks in the guitars and vocals. It’s a bright, openhearted call to arms, an antidote to The Woods, and a furious and cloistered record that found the band retreating whenever they decided to look on the outside world. Which isn’t to say Tucker and Brownstein are happy with the state of affairs in 2015: No Cities to Love attacks contemporary politics as directly as One Beat did in 2002, teaming with anger, anxiety, and unresolved questions. Despite this internal tension, the first and lasting impression of No Cities to Love is one of joy, a joy that emanates from a group who realized the purpose and pleasure of being in a band during their extended absence.” – Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, AMG ALL MUSIC GUIDE (RATING: 4,5 stars out of 5)

* * * * *

Now is the time: breaking the decade of relative silence that followed Sleater-Kinney‘s prodigious supposed finale, 2005’s The Woods, the girls are back in town. We have arrived at the critical reappraisal and celebrated comeback of music’s most revered feminist saviors of American rock’n’roll. It is 2015 and we are staring down Sleater-Kinney’s wise eighth album—exactly 50 years removed from the birth of “R-e-s-p-e-c-t”, exactly 40 years removed from the birth of Horses, exactly 30 years removed from when Kim Gordon first yells “brave men run away from me” in the Mojave desert, exactly 20 years removed from Sleater-Kinney, a primal, insurrectionist warning shot from the margins. Ever since, we have had Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, and Janet Weiss to soundtrack our societal chaos and progressing zeitgeist: tangled agitation, pummeled norms, principled wit, sublimity, sadness, friction, kicks.

Nowadays, there is a prevailing notion that we ought not want such epochal bands as Sleater-Kinney to reunite, because why tarnish the legend of “Best Band in the World” acclaim and a perfectly ascendant seven-album streak? But if any band in the past two decades has proved they’ve got the intellect, skepticism, and emotional capacity to deserve this—to keep living—it’s Sleater-Kinney. No Cities to Love is a disarming, liberationist force befitting the Sleater-Kinney canon. Fervent political leftism has been implicit to this Olympia-born trio since they first inverted Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” on a 1994 comp and that goes on here as well; we desperately need it. It is astonishing that a radical DIY punk band could grow up and keep going with this much dignity and this many impossibly chiseled choruses. No Pistol, Ramone, or unfortunate mutation of Black Flag could have done this.

The necessity of change—the creative virtue of ripping it up and starting again—remains a crucial strand of Sleater-Kinney’s DNA. This is still them: low-tuned classic rock tropes resuscitated with punk urgency, raw and jagged like Wire compressing crystalline Marquee Moon coils. Weiss’ massive swoop is still the band’s throbbing heart, pumping Sleater-Kinney’s blood. But Brownstein has said they set out to find “a new approach to the band” and that is true of No Cities to Love. It is no less emphatic and corporeal than punk classics Call the Doctor and Dig Me Out. But unlike their last two albums of monstrous combat rock, No Cities to Love keeps only the most addictive elements—if Sleater-Kinney are still taking Joey Ramone as a spiritual guide, this is their mature, honed, and clean-sounding Rocket to Russia. Catchy as all-clashing hell, it’s Sleater-Kinney’s most front-to-back accessible album, amping their omnipresent love of new wave pop with aerodynamic choruses that reel and reel, enormously shouted and gasped and sung with a dead-cool drawl. The album has the particular aliveness of music being created and torn from a group at this very moment—tempered, but with the wild-paced abandon that comes with being caged and then free.

As ever, empathy is Sleater-Kinney’s renewable energy source. They have always made a kind of folk music—songs of real people—and opener “Price Tag” is an honest example of this, fueled by Tucker’s motherly responsibility. In concrete detail, it describes the struggle of a working class family in the context of American capitalism and financial crisis (it rings of the high cost of low prices). Real life power dynamics permeate No Cities, among the rubbery synth lines of the otherwise venomous “Fangless” (which I know will frighten off a couple to-the-bone punk purists, like garlic wards off evil) and the anxious post-hardcore lurch of “No Anthems”, which Albini could have produced. On the glammy “Gimme Love”, Tucker plainly wants more of that four-letter-word for girls and outsiders (she seems to wish, in the words of de Beauvoir, “that every human life might be pure transparent freedom”). Brownstein, meanwhile, sings some of the most elliptical and oblique lyrics of her career: “I was lured by the devil… I’ll choose sin ’til I leave,” she hollers like a Bad Seed, clenched and possessed. In lighter moments, it’s heartening to hear Tucker and Brownstein in unison at the record’s sing-song center: “No outline will ever hold us/ It’s not a new wave/ It’s just you and me.”

Sleater-Kinney began work on No Cities in earnest around May 2012, they have said, but especially on the anthemic title track and “Hey Darling”—the first two songs they wrote—you can hear echoes of that decade of pause, an airing out of just why. The titular phrase is abstract enough, but considering Brownstein’s vocal incompatibility with the van-show-van-show tour-life void—and her lines, here, about “a ritual of emptiness”—it plays like a direct take on the complicated reality of the rootless rock band and its scattered tribe. On “Hey Darling”, one of Tucker’s gummiest melodies becomes a letter to fans, reasoning her hiding: “It seems to me the only thing/ That comes from fame is mediocrity,” and then, “Sometimes the shout of the room/ Makes me feel so alone.” The slow-burn of “Fade”, the closer, also takes on Sleater-Kinney’s hiatus. Tucker is like a Robert Plant putting her supernatural quasi-operatic range on display over epic, minor-key hard rock, switching from sly-voiced ballad to high-pitched inflection: “If there’s no tomorrow/ You better live,” she sings of a dimming spotlight, her slipping self-perception. It’s the closest No Cities gets to The Woods’ feminist rewrite of ’70s rock grandeur, and yet sounds like nothing on that record. Sleater-Kinney’s discography is full of songs delivering meta-commentaries on what it means to be women playing rock; No Cities is more purely personal and explicitly political, evidence enough that in the context of family, middle-age, and multiple careers, it is possible to have everything.

For the first time in 21 years, Sleater-Kinney have written an album without a proper stomach-twisting tearjerker; no wistful confessions, breathless breakups, or dying lovers, no“Good Things”, “One More Hour”, or “The Size of Our Love”. But I predict Sleater-Kinney will be making more people cry this year than ever before—maybe Lena Dunham, maybe Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves, definitely Fred Armisen (tears are highly subjective, and yet my claim is substantiated). “We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion famously wrote, and we align ourselves with the potent narratives of great bands for the same reason. Their songs guide us through the restless process of figuring out who we are. We search for meaning in rhythm and couplets and distortion, and if a band is grounded with as much purpose as Sleater-Kinney, they charge our consciousness, occupy space in our relationships, symbolize what we want to become. Sleater-Kinney’s music still does this. It tells us—women or anyone who has ever felt small and othered—the truth, that even when the world seems to deny it, we are never powerless. Now the story goes on longer; it didn’t have to end.” – REVIEW BY JENN PELLY, PITCHFORK (RATING: 8.7 out of 10)

Pump up the volume & watch Jeff Buckley’s full concert in Chicago, 1995. What an awe-inspiring musician!

Chicago

Live at Cabaret Metro in Chicago is a live DVD by Jeff Buckley, recorded on May 13, 1995 at Cabaret Metro during the Mystery White Boy tour.

Tracks:

  • “Dream Brother” (Jeff Buckley, Mick Grondahl, Matt Johnson)
  • “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” (Jeff Buckley)
  • “Mojo Pin” (Jeff Buckley, Gary Lucas)
  • “So Real” (Jeff Buckley, Michael Tighe)
  • “Last Goodbye” (Jeff Buckley)
  • “Eternal Life (Jeff Buckley)
  • “Kick Out the Jams” (MC5)
  • “Lilac Wine” (James Shelton)
  • “What Will You Say” (Jeff Buckley, Carla Azar, Chris Dowd)
  • “Grace” (Jeff Buckley, Gary Lucas)
  • “Vancouver” (instrumental) (Jeff Buckley, Mick Grondahl, Michael Tighe)
  • “Kanga Roo” (Big Star)
  • “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen)

Bonus material (click links below to watch)

Personnel:

Jeff Buckley – vocals, guitar
Michael Tighe – guitar
Mick Grondahl – bass guitar
Matt Johnson – drums

Rage Against The Machine: remember their bombastic debut, a groundbreaking Musical Molotov Cocktail…

01 Bombtrack

02 Killing in the Name

03 Take the Power Back

04 Settle for Nothing

05 Bullet in the Head

06 Know Your Enemy

07 Wake Up

08 Fistful of Steel

09 Township Rebellion

10 Freedom

* * * * *

Rage_Against_The_Machine___Aage_Against_The_Machine

Review by Eduardo Rivadavia @ AMG ALL MUSIC GUIDE

“Probably the first album to successfully merge the seemingly disparate sounds of rap and heavy metal, Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut was groundbreaking enough when released in 1992, but many would argue that it has yet to be surpassed in terms of influence and sheer brilliance — though countless bands have certainly tried. This is probably because the uniquely combustible creative relationship between guitar wizard Tom Morello and literate rebel vocalist Zack de la Rocha could only burn this bright, this once. While the former’s roots in ’80s heavy metal shredding gave rise to an inimitable array of six-string acrobatics and rhythmic special effects (few of which anyone else has managed to replicate), the latter delivered meaningful rhymes with an emotionally charged conviction that suburban white boys of the ensuing nu-metal generation could never hope to touch. As a result, syncopated slabs of hard rock insurrection like “Bombtrack,” “Take the Power Back,” and “Know Your Enemy” were as instantly unforgettable as they were astonishing. Yet even they paled in comparison to veritable clinics in the art of slowly mounting tension such as “Settle for Nothing,” “Bullet in the Head,” and the particularly venomous “Wake Up” (where Morello revises Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” riff for his own needs) — all of which finally exploded with awesome power and fury. And even listeners who were unable (or unwilling) to fully process the band’s unique clash of muscle and intellect were catered to, as RATM were able to convey their messages through stubborn repetition via the fundamental challenge of “Freedom” and their signature track, “Killing in the Name,” which would become a rallying cry of disenfranchisement, thanks to its relentlessly rebellious mantra of “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” Ultimately, if there’s any disappointment to be had with this near-perfect album, it’s that it still towers above subsequent efforts as the unequivocal climax of Rage Against the Machine’s vision. As such, it remains absolutely essential.”

Patti Smith & Fred Sonic Smith’s “People Have The Power” (1988, Dream of Life)

PATTI

People Have the Power

I was dreaming in my dreaming
Of an aspect bright and fair
And my sleeping it was broken
But my dream it lingered near
In the form of shining valleys
Where the pure air recognized
And my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry
That the people have the power
To redeem the work of fools
Upon the meek the graces shower
It’s decreed the people rule

The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power

Vengeful aspects became suspect
And bending low as if to hear
And the armies ceased advancing
Because the people had their ear
And the shepherds and the soldiers
Lay beneath the stars
Exchanging visions
And laying arms
To waste in the dust
In the form of shining valleys
Where the pure air recognized
And my senses newly opened
I awakened to the cry

The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power

Where there were deserts
I saw fountains
Like cream the waters rise
And we strolled there together
With none to laugh or criticize
And the leopard
And the lamb
Lay together truly bound
I was hoping in my hoping
To recall what I had found
I was dreaming in my dreaming
God knows a purer view
As I lay down to my sleeping
I commit my dream to you

The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power
The people have the power

The power to dream, to rule
To wrestle the world from fools
It’s decreed the people rule
It’s decreed the people rule
Listen: I believe everything we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth’s revolution

We have the power
People have the power

“Ah, Are You Digging On My Grave?” – A poem about Life and Death, by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

pet-sematary-847513l

Ah, Are You Digging On My Grave?
Thomas Hardy

“Ah, are you digging on my grave 
          My loved one? — planting rue?” 
— “No, yesterday he went to wed 
One of the brightest wealth has bred. 
‘It cannot hurt her now,’ he said, 
          ‘That I should not be true.'” 

“Then who is digging on my grave?
My nearest dearest kin?”
— “Ah, no; they sit and think, ‘What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose
Her spirit from Death’s gin.’ “

“But some one digs upon my grave?
My enemy? — prodding sly?”
— “Nay: when she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie.”

“Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say — since I have not guessed!”
— “O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog, who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?”

“Ah yes! You  dig upon my grave . . .
Why flashed it not on me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among human kind
A dog’s fidelity!”

“Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.
I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting-place.”

* * * * *

You might also enjoy, as companion piece,
THOMAS HARDY’S Afterwards (poem)
(With comments by JOSEPH BRODKSY
)
* * * * *

And if these words have turned you gloomy, cheer up a bit,
cherished readers, with The Ramones’s Punk Hymn…

“I’m worse at what I do best…” – 20 years without Kurt Cobain (1967-1994), PART II – Quotes from his interviews; “About a Son” (full doc); Nirvana’s Discography (stream or download)…

MTV Unplugged: Nirvana

“I’m a spokesman for myself. It just so happens that there’s a bunch of people that are concerned with what I have to say. I find that frightening at times because I’m just as confused as most people. I don’t have the answers for anything. I don’t want to be a fucking spokesperson.”

* * * * *

“I definitely have a problem with the average macho man – the strong-oxen, working-class type – because they have always been a threat to me. I’ve had to deal with them most of my life – being taunted and beaten up by them in school, just having to be around them and be expected to be that kind of person when you grow up. I definitely feel closer to the feminine side of the human being than I do the male – or the American idea of what a male is supposed to be. Just watch a beer commercial and you’ll see what I mean.”

* * * * *

“If you’re a sexist, racist, homophobe, or basically an asshole, don’t buy this CD. I don’t care if you like me, I hate you. “

* * * * *

“I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had voted me Most Likely To Kill Everyone At A High School Dance.”

* * * * *

“I don’t want to sound egotistical, but I know our music is better than a majority of the commercial shit that’s been crammed down people’s throats for a long time.”

* * * * *

“All the albums I ever liked delivered a great song one after another: Aerosmith’s ‘Rocks’, The Sex Pistols’ ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’, Led Zeppelin’s ‘II’, AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’. (…) I really liked R.E.M., and I was into all kinds of old ’60s stuff. (…) With ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ I was trying to write the ultimate po song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it.. When I head the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band – or at least in a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard…”

* * * *

“Birds scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth, but sadly we don’t speak bird.”

– Kurt Cobain
(1967 – 1994)

You might also like:

About a Son

“Kurt Cobain: About a Son” (A Film By A. J. Schnack)

* * * * *

NIRVANA’s DISCOGRAPHY:

 [DOWNLOAD FULL DISCOGRAPHY]

* * * * *

LIVE AT READING – 1992

Punk Rock Anthems – Volumes I, II and III [Mixtapes for Streaming] – Undertones, MC5, Stooges, Richard Hell, Rancid, Clash, Black Flag, The Gits, Husker Du, Fugazi, Nirvana, Saints, Radio Birdman and so on…

Punk Rock Anthems (Vol. #03)

01. BLACK FLAG, “Rise Above”
02. HÜSKER DÜ, “Turn on the News”
03. THE REPLACEMENTS, “Bastards of Young”
04. SLEATER-KINNEY, “You’re No Rock’n’roll Fun”
05. THE MUFFS, “Kids in America”
06. THE GITS, “Absynthe”
07. GREEN DAY, “Basket Case”
08. THE DT’S, “Freedom”
09. THE HIVES, “Die All Right!”
10. BLONDIE, “11:59”
11. JOE STRUMMER & THE MESCALEROS, “Arms Aloft”
12. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, “Killing in the Name Of”

Punk Rock Anthems (Vol. #02)

01. THE UNDERTONES, “Teenage Kicks”
02. THE DISTILLERS, “City of Angels”
03. THE DEAD BOYS, “Sonic Reducer”
04. PEARL JAM, “Do The Evolution”
05. RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDS, “Blank Generation”
06. MC5, “Kick Out The Jams”
07. PATTI SMITH, “Rock’n’roll Nigger”
08. BIKINI KILL, “Rebel Girl”
09. G.B.H., “Cadilac One”
10. X, “Your Phone’s Off The Hook”
11. MUDHONEY, “Pump It Up”
12. THE MAKERS, “Too Many Fuckers On The Streets”

Punk Rock Anthems (Vol. #01)

01. IGGY & THE STOOGES, “Search & Destroy”
02. RAMONES, “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”
03. SEX PISTOLS, “God Save The Queen”
04. DEAD KENNEDYS, “California Übber Alles”
05. THE CLASH, “Clampdown”
06. RANCID, “Bloodclot”
07. RADIO BIRDMAN, “Murder City Nights”
08. FUGAZI, “Waiting Room”
09. JOHNNY THUNDERS, “Born To Lose”
10. THE SAINTS, “I’m Stranded”
11. THE SONICS, “Shot Down”
12. NIRVANA, “Breed”

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Listen to more than 50 cyber mixtapes of music I cherish at…