Did you know No Cities to Love, the new album by Sleater-Kinney, came outÂ this year? Because I swear it’s been running in my veins for a decade.
Just thinking about the fact that Sleater-Kinney came back together for an album and a tour after nine years apart turns up the little pilot light inside of me. I can’t believe I got to see them in February, in between giant blizzards. I can’t believe how good the album is. All of their albums. They’re all on fire, sizzling, aching, desperate, strong. So as the year ends,Â I really want to say something more about them. About the album. About what it means to me, and how important it’s been. But I don’t know how.
I want an anthem
A singular anthem
An answer and a force
To feel rhythm in silence
A weapon not violence
A power, power source
Okay. Forget my past. Forget when and where and how I discovered Sleater-Kinney. Forget the electricity every time I listened to “Words and Guitar,” the utter shock when The Woods came out like a freight train, different and exactly right. Forget how I want parts of “One Beat” tattooed on my stoneÂ heart. Forget all of that, and remember that they broke up in 2006 and I never saw them. Remember that they went on to do other things, and I thought, that’s good. Portlandia is fun. The Corin Tucker Project is great. Wild FlagÂ is a racehorse.
The weird thing is, if you had asked me my top five favorite bands a year before S-K came back, I might not have thought to mention them. I never stopped listening to them, but I would’ve answered with something else, and maybe when I thought about it a while I’d say “Oh yeah, and I still like Sleater-Kinney.” But the second there was hint of new life, new growth, new shoots furiously springing up from a plot I’d been walking by every day, well, it was like some secret dream had come true.
No Cities to Love made Sleater-Kinney essential to me again. Essential to me being conscious, to understanding some inarticulate part of me that is never satisfied.
A while back I readÂ Girls to the Front which is a sort of history of riot grrrl, then I sawÂ The Punk Singer, which is about Kathleen Hanna, and then to culminate it all came No Cities to Love. Like the world was reminding me how important all this was to me when I was a teenager, angry without understanding why, dissatisfied and yearning. It allÂ came back as I’ve grown up, growing somewhat steadier, finding kindness and some contentment, and it came back to remind me thatÂ I’m still not satisfied. Some things may be better than they were, both in the world and just for me personally. But it’s not good enough. There are still things that make me angry and dissatisfied, keep me yearning for tomorrow to be better, only now, maybe, I can articulate some of it.
My baby loves me, I’m so angry
Anger makes me a modern girl
Took my money, I couldn’t buy nothin’
I’m sick of this brave new world
I’m not saying these feelings are good and useful. They’re desperate and hard to manage. They’re rough on you, inside. Sometimes you feel useless and powerless, no matter how many ways you think you might be able to do something — something else in life gets in the way, or you act and nothing changes, or you act and see something else, and it’s never-ending, you’re always wanting more, you’re always wantingÂ better, but. But the world is the world. There’s always something. You will always have this feeling. What it needs is a sound, a voice, another person claiming it with you.
I close my eyes and think hard enough and I can still see and hear andÂ feel the way Corin clung to the mic and sang-screamed-wailed “gimme love” near the close of the concert; I can feel the beat of the drums and the throb of guitars and the way Carrie eats the line “leave them nothing to devour”; I am transported back and singing along to “Modern Girl” with everyone else all of us feeling every damn word. I’m not one for Group Experiences, but this is myÂ tribe, this and #spacewitches.
I feel so much stronger now that you’re here
We’ve got so much to do, let me make that clear
The videos below areÂ from my concert, but a video can never ever capture the live concert experience, especially for a band like Sleater-Kinney. But for what it’s worth, I was a little farther back than the first video, but on the other side, in front of Carrie.
Y’all, I love Sleater-Kinney a lot. Just wait until I get my hands on Carrie’s memoir.