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So far 2019 has become a high point for music, with some quality release filtering through the airwaves. However, it has become a wet dream for fans of Sleater-Kinney, news of an extensive tour with European dates, new music kickstarting with the intelligent “Hurry On Home” and then of course news of a new long-player. On the crest of anticipation came the shock to the system, the kick in the balls of fans awaiting that tour. News was filtered surrounding drummer Janet Weiss, and via social media she announced that she was no longer a part of the band. This followed only two weeks after the blistering performance of the full band on Fallon.
Regardless of this factor, what a sign-off she has done on her personal swan song release The Center Won’t’ Hold. Eleven-tracks from the musical soul of third wave feminism, digging their heels in and straddling the airwaves with addictive power-rock. The album blasts into business with the title track, a trance of mechanical noise, with snarling vocals courtesy of Carrie Brownstein. A track which staggers along with the melodic rise of blissful voices and electronic-experimentation, before the guitars crank, bringing us back to the nineties. ”I need something pretty to help me ease my pain/ I need something ugly to put me in my place”.
It is a perfect opening to a release that mixes caustic tension with triumph, doom with hope.
Following is the first insight and single to 2019’s Sleater-Kinney sound, “Hurry On Home”. It gave the perfect direction, opening with a choral effect before that vicious-tongue of Brownstein, at her most sarcastic, explodes into your face with the mantra ”unlovable, unlistenable, unwatchable”.
The production by St. Vincent is inspired, exhuming the best from the ladies whilst keeping the dynamics of the band fully cohesive. Sleater-Kinney has a fresh, and fuller sound, whilst still holding that raw, in-your-face delivery. Certainly a more fulfilling outing than 2015’s No Cities to Love, an anti-establishment whistle blower of the modern era.
At moments, they can pull back the assault but echo the impending doom, such as on “Restless”, ”My heart wants the ugliest things!”
Though coming closer to pop mechanisms on “Can I Go On”, the sound still holds an edge of malice. Although criticized heavily, that St. Vincent production has certainly not warped the sound. The drumming for example on “The Future Is Here” is bombastic, even whilst more ambient sounds cascade the track, circling it, the strength of the delivery is still very much old-school. Though one limp branch on the tree of stiffys is “Love”, aching with nostalgia and perhaps a brief history lesson on the band, it is nevertheless more interesting than excellent.
Closing out the album with the #MeToo anthemic “Broken”, certainly expected, and slightly poignant in the way it brings The Center Won’t Hold to a halt. What the future holds for the now duo of Sleater-Kinney is yet to be seen, indeed, the tour date will be fulfilled with perhaps a session drummer. But, if this is to be the groups final album, it is the perfect album to go out on, a career high, because it would never be as good as this again.
“The Center Won’t Hold” – 3:04
“Hurry On Home” – 2:48
“Reach Out” – 3:31
“Can I Go On” – 3:31
“Restless” – 2:42
“Ruins” – 5:18
“Love” – 2:16
“Bad Dance” – 2:45
“The Future Is Here” – 3:00
“The Dog/The Body” – 4:22
“Broken” – 3:03
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