Album #8: Sleater-Kinney – The Center Won’t Hold

  • Released: 2019
  • Origin: Olympia, Washington, USA
  • Label: Mom + Pop
  • Best Track: Ruins

It’s time I stopped admiring Sleater-Kinney from distance and listened to them properly. They’re one of those bands I know I like without ever having listened to them that much, with my experience of them pretty much starting and ending with their 1997 riot grrrl staple Dig Me Out.

The Center Won’t Hold is the ninth album from the all-female punk trio (now duo, but we’ll come to that later), and their second since returning from a six-year hiatus in 2013.

Right from the start, it’s obvious that S-K are going to be sounding much the same, yet totally different on this record. Corin Tucker’s trademark wails and snarls are there, but there’s something a little out of the ordinary that runs through the veins of this album, right from the semi-industrial clangs of its opening track. It’s brooding and atmospheric, rather than punchy and in-your-face.

This shift in sound hits its highest note on the murky melee of ‘Ruins’. I love this song – it makes me think of Curve with more aggressive vocals, and an intensity that tightens as it growls on for over five minutes.

There’s some great pop songs on this album too. ‘The Dog / The Body’ is something I could imagine being played over the ending credits of an edgier than normal romantic comedy, while ‘Bad Dance’ is, well, something you could dance badly too.

It’s just a shame that this really decent album has been sullied a little by an apparent fallout between two vocalists and Janet Weiss, who has left the band since the recording of the album, claiming she was told she was “just the drummer” and would have no future creative input. Hopefully, for the sake of good music if nothing else, all three women can move on.

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