Published Aug 14, 2019Sleater-Kinney have never shied away from pushing their minimal two-guitars-and-drums setup to the max. If 2005's The Woods wasn't enough of convincing argument, The Center Won't Hold certainly will be.
Produced by the brilliant mind of pop innovator Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, the band's tenth album finds the Portland-based trio hitting "refresh" on the ferocious indie rock they've been making for the last 20-plus years. With Clark on board, S-K clearly wanted to shake things up, and that's exactly what they've done on The Center Won't Hold.
Longtime fans could find this "new direction" a little jarring at first. (Drummer Janet Weiss left the band just after the album was announced, citing disinterest in where the band are headed.) The title track sounds more like mid-'90s PJ Harvey, with crawling, industrial cacophony that eventually yields to a fuzz bomb of guitar noise and Corin Tucker wailing the chorus.
Along with Clark came her prowess for synthesizers, which evoke new wave greats like Devo and New Order, respectively, on "Love" and "The Future Is Here." But Clark's biggest contribution is in how she's harnessed her gift for composing outré pop music. She helps sharpen Sleater-Kinney's tools on cuts like "Reach Out," "Can I Go On" and "The Dog / The Body," three of the band's finest pop-leaning achievements to date.
To some fans, The Center Won't Hold might always be remembered as the album that convinced Sleater-Kinney's legendary drummer to leave. But really, it should be celebrated as a brave left turn, where one of indie rock's most consistent bands took a giant creative leap 25 years into their career and stuck the landing with poise. (Mom + Pop)