Sleater Kinney’s ninth studio album
Sleater Kinney’s The Center Won’t Hold is a remarkable gut-puncher with no left arm shield. There are angst and strength coursing through Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker’s vocal reverberation, but at times the album feels like an easily knocked down argument. Sleater Kinney’s artistic reflexes lie in garage rock with a license for creative violence. With the production technique of St. Vincent, the nitty-gritty blossoms playfully with energy untapped. With a team stacked with irreplicable talent–specifically Janet Weiss on drums for her final album with the band–it’s nearly impossible to forget the raw power that Sleater Kinney historically cuts into.
The 2005 hit track “Modern Girl” remains a defensible ode to post Riot Grrrl reflections of femininity and young adulthood. Sleater Kinney is a relic returned, with nothing to lose but their drumsticks onstage. The title track “The Center Won’t Hold” cracks open the record, revealing a less dramatic call to arms like their former albums, and more an introduction to their recalculated and consolidated ambitions. As if with the same intentional atonal discomfort of Portishead or Dirty Projectors, Sleater Kinney revels in the in-between. “RUINS” is the Sleater Kinney fans thirst for, counting in the most seconds on the album, with fumbling beats and electronic static reminding us that St. Vincent’s production strategies haunt every track. With the same sense of urgency as the 90s, the band fixates on the untenable issues that plague our society, like critics of the modern age with music and melodies as their doctorate education. Listen closely at 0:52 in “The Future Is Here” for the choral ensemble–songbirds with determination.
Album closer “Broken” touches on sensitivity and anger, tapping into the socio-political dialogue of our current cultural climate. In reference to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in September 2018, the band sings with a solemn sense of unity: “She, she, she stood up for us/ when she testified/ me, me too, my body cried out/ when she spoke those lines.” Sleater Kinney confronts what’s easier left undisturbed, but they do it with shameless courage backed up by reckless melodies and classic Weiss beats. Sleater Kinney’s ninth studio album The Center Won’t Hold is a record made by women, for women.