August 12, 2019 Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold (Album Review)
Led by Corin Tucker (vocals, guitar) and Carrie Brownstein (guitar, vocals), Sleater-Kinney was one of the flag-bearers in the late 1990s and the early 2000s of the so-called Riot Grrrl sub-genre of Alternative/Indie Rock music. Out of Olympia, Washington, and formed in 1994, Sleater-Kinney’s sound has been compared to the likes of Sonic Youth (“Bull in the Heather”), Fuzzbox (“Love Is a Slug”), Babes in Toyland (“Sweet ’69”), and Hole (“Doll Parts”).
Establishing themselves as a vital part of the genres their music has been associated with, the band released their self-titled debut in 1994, and have come to produce seven albums more – from 1996’s Call the Doctor to 2015’s No Cities to Love. Now on Friday, August 16th, 2019 they return with The Center Won’t Hold.
Slated for release via Mom + Pop Music, The Center Won’t Hold – Sleater-Kinney’s ninth offering – marks the last album with Drummer Janet Weiss, who announced her departure from the band back on July 1st. Produced by St. Vincent, and consisting of eleven new songs, it all begins with the riotous, clenched-fist female angst of the title-track. A bold opening, it is then followed by the mid-tempo groove and Noise Pop crunch of lead single “Hurry On Home” and “Reach Out,” both of which might remind the initiated of similar scathing yet saccharine swagger of Yeah Yeah Yeahs (“Maps”).
From there the album moves on with the more melodic and accessible predisposition of “Can I Go On?,” whose fuzzy guitar ad lib resonates a ’60s Sunny Pop vibe with a Rock twist. This is before the tempo shift, taking you into bittersweet realms with the subtly orchestrated Indie Rock ballad “Restless.” Another trek to Goth-flavored Noise Rock territory then follows in the form of “Ruins,” whose instrumental backdrop exudes exotic echoes of Siouxsie & the Banshees (“Arabian Knights”).
The mood then switches once again to a brighter and more upbeat, Synthpop-stylized musicality as “Love” plays next; it will fit well on a playlist that includes The Flying Lizards’ “Money (That’s What I Want),” The Go-Go’s’ “We Got the Beat,” and The Flirts’ “Jukebox (Don’t Put Another Dime).” Then there is the tuneful, playful, and punky, carnivalesque swirl of “Bad Dance.” There after, a bit more minimalistic, “The Future Is Here” stands out near the end of the record with its wiry guitar interlude. Aptly, the penultimate track, curiously titled “The Dog / The Body,” comes in slow and then builds up with a steady, pulsating rhythm and explosive singalong, anthemic choruses. Finally, Sleater-Kinney wrap up The Center Won’t Hold with the piano-led ballad “Broken”—a perfect album closer—sentimental, alluring, heartrending.
Definitely possessing the ability to hold your fancy throughout its entirety, The Center Won’t Hold is indeed a worthy new edition to Sleater-Kinney catalog. The diversity and variety of its contents’ moods/styles exhibit the progression and expansion of the band’s music through the course of its discography spreading over a twenty-five year activity. Interesting. Impressive. Iconic. That is why Cryptic Rock gives The Center Won’t Hold 4 out of 5 stars.