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CD: Sleater-Kinney - The Center Won't Hold | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Sleater-Kinney - The Center Won't Hold

CD: Sleater-Kinney - The Center Won't Hold

Punks' St Vincent-produced search for new ground succeeds, with casualties

This album’s title began as a reaction to fractiousness under Trump, but gained more intimate meaning when drummer Janet Weiss quit Sleater-Kinney shortly before release. With production by St Vincent’s Annie Clark pushing these knotty indie-rock veterans towards gliding electro-pop, the musical differences Weiss cited after 22 years of shared service are obvious throughout.

Sleater-Kinney’s abrasive, post-riot grrrl American feminism, forged in the idealistic Nineties hotbed of Olympia, Washington, is the core of their enduring importance. The Center Won’t Hold coherently develops their ideas. “Home is Home” equates a relationship with liquefied identity, asking a lover to “disconnect me from my bones”, while celestial, gospel harmonies, the vocally swaggering chorus and whirring synths pulse with pop. Whether willingly dissolving in love and lust or critiquing the demand that women do so, the erotic ambiguity has its own power. “Reach Out” is another visceral dissection of need where “my desire is contagious...too sticky”, set to the rasp and clang of guitar and synths, Cronenbergian body-horror battling with more transcendent desires. Sleater-Kinney aren’t noble heroines set apart from compromise, longing and need, instead wading through their treacly pull with the rest of us. “Do you wallow in nostalgia,” “Ruins” asks, “take pleasure in pain?” These are anthems for disintegrating selves, and feminist identities in flux.

“Love”, meanwhile, is the band’s poignant tribute to their youthful struggles, recalling years on the road when ties were tighter, and “if we turn up any louder/I won’t know my own name”. The slick choruses and synth-sheen overlaid in collaboration with St Vincent keeps that history and its meaning intact, despite Weiss’s resignation.

These are anthems for disintegrating selves, and feminist identities in flux

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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