In case you were wondering how the majorly increased visibility of Carrie Brownstein (Portlandia) would affect the reunion of Sleater-Kinney after nine years, here is your answer: they are famous and can now get people like Connie Britton, Ellen Page, Natasha Lyonne, Sarah Silverman, and Norman Reedus aka hellooooo Darryl from The Walking Dead to sing along to their new song on their computers and record it like the YouTube dorks we all are.
"No Cities to Love" is the third single from their reunion album of the same name. (That drops January 20; you can stream it now here.) As a lifelong Sleater-Kinney fan and a former resident of Portland, Oregon, in the halcyon days (LOL) of the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was terrified to listen to it; Jay Z broke up from his career after releasing a whole string of great albums, came back, and proceeded to drop lukewarm if not hot garbage all over our Beats by Dre. And Sleater-Kinney was so indicative of such a specific time and slice of culture that I also fretted over how they might translate a decade on. When they played their presumably last-ever show, which I witnessed and wrote about rather dramatically for the music website Pitchfork, Pitbull was still making political rap music, tiny baby Ariana Grande was still in the womb, and the marketing term "EDM" was still just a glint in a corporate demon's eye. How would this brave new world translate, now that Corin Tucker had a chance to lead her own thing, and Brownstein and Janet Weiss had jammed in Wild Flag, and Brownstein started a TV show parodying (barely) the band's hometown and became a huge star?
I gave in and listened to it, finally: to my total surprise, relief, and pleasure, I actually ended up liking it a lot, and I am extremely finicky when it comes to guitar music and/or anything even remotely approaching rock in 2015. (IT IS 2015 WE HAVE COMPUTERS AS INSTRUMENTS THEY ARE COOL.) There is a nostalgic element to No Cities to Love but it's not like Sleater-Kinney cast in amber—it's not their Kingdom Come. Thank god. All cylinders are go, their fires stay burning, and while I haven't delved into the mechanics of their lyrics yet, they've always been reliably political about current events, politics, important shit and all that, whether directly (remember their 9/11 album and post-9/11 "Fortunate Son" covers with pally pal Eddie Vedder) or through metaphor (see above).
Anyway, the "No Cities to Love" video is cute. It not only features famous actors but also longtime friends like the artist Miranda July, Brownstein's comedy partner and possibly sus Fred Armisen, Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis, and professional singer Andy Samberg. Last month, Sleater-Kinney did a Reddit AMA and answered fan questions, but the best part was a comment from user helpmeimadinosaur that really illustrated why the band means so much, so fiercely, to so many people, and why they've always been so emblematic of empowerment for their women fans:
Carrie, when I was 12 years old I attended a music camp in Portland, Oregon called "Rock and Roll camp for girls", which you also attended that year as a mentor. During a self defense course there, you held up a large pad and let me practice kicking you. I was pretty terrified - I thought that I'd hurt you or knock you over or something - but you convinced me that it was okay because it was important for me to know how to protect myself and stand up for my personal boundaries. Then I kicked the shit out of that pad you were holding.