Sleater-Kinney’s new album wastes no time situating the listener in a particularly fiery postcode. As opening track Hell switches from its haunted intro to full-on quaking distortion, Corin Tucker sings of young men brandishing guns, of looking into the mirror only to see ‘a stranger looking back’. The horrors of our present day alone warrants the decidedly unambiguous title, but it takes on an altogether different resonance when you factor in that Carrie Brownstein tragically lost both her mother and stepfather to a car crash midway through the album’s recording sessions. Little Rope is not always an easy listen, but it is a brilliant one.
It would be wrong to call this a return to form, given that’s something S-K have never lost. What is true, however, is that since reuniting with 2015’s astounding No Cities To Love, the band have parted ways with beloved drummer Janet Weiss and blazed new trails. On 2019’s The Center Won’t Hold they embraced St.Vincent-assisted experimentalism, while 2021’s The Path Of Wellness was a captivating, but more tranquilised affair than normal.
These albums weren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Little Rope, however, should be. It’s a return to rock with a capital 'R'. In fact, make that three capital 'R's. At one point, Six Mistakes sounds like it’s imploding with fuzz and distortion. Needlessly Wild, meanwhile, lives up to its name, boasting some eccentric pronunciations (wild = 'wi-yuuuuld') and lines like ‘I’m aggressively fun, death of the party, a lecture for one’. Even after all these years, the combination of Corin and Carrie’s crisscrossing guitar lines, dovetailing vocals and witticisms remain entirely unique.