Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won't Hold (Mom + Pop) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Sleater-Kinney

The Center Won’t Hold

Mom + Pop

Aug 15, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


When the news broke in January that Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, would be producing the new album from the now-legendary feminist punk-rock trio Sleater-Kinney, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. There was much excitement and anticipation about what these four women could create together such is their status as highly respected artists and musicians.   

However, Sleater-Kinney's ninth full-length record The Center Won't Hold has already potentially been tarred, due to the departure of drummer Janet Weiss. Weiss' exit from Sleater-Kinney after 22 years of loyal service (bar the band's 7-year hiatus) came as a shock to fans, as she had been the sturdy backbone that carried Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker's front-and-center theatrics, seemingly citing displeasure with the band's "new direction."    

As a result, there has been an immediate and unnecessary backlash towards Clark after the initial singles had her fingerprints impressed all over Sleater-Kinney's "new" sound, leading to her being "to blame" for Weiss' departure. While there is an undeniable influence over The Center Won't Hold from Clark on tracks such as "Ruins" and "Bad Dance," this is still unmistakably the work of Brownstein, Tucker, and Weiss. For instance, "Restless" and "LOVE" are both pure unadulterated Sleater-Kinney at their self-reflective finest.

The more pressing concern about The Center Won't Hold is that there is a safety in the band's new-found, sleeker sound that somewhat undermines what makes Sleater-Kinney such a special band. The worst offender is the major-key power-pop ballad "The Dog/The Body," which is borderline pastiche; something very at odds with Sleater-Kinney's usual combustibility. Equally, single "The Future is Here" feels a little limp for what we know the band can produce.

However, The Center Won't Hold works best when it is palpably teeming with lust, sadness, or frustration. While this is not a political album in the way 2002's One Beat was, there is a clear struggle on display over modern female and queer identities and how it has evolved throughout Sleater-Kinney's career. 

In that regard, the album is successful in displaying where Brownstein and Tucker (as the band's dual-mouthpieces) are in 2019, encapsulated beautifully on the album's piano-led closer "Broken." Elsewhere, "Reach Out" and "Can I Go On" provide the kind of anthemic rallying calls we collectively get behind Sleater-Kinney for. (www.sleater-kinney.com

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10



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