The release of Sleater-Kinney’s ninth studio album in August 2019 was overshadowed by the sudden departure of longtime member Janet Weiss. Produced by St Vincent, The Center Won’t Hold saw Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker wanting to move the band in a different direction with less input from Weiss who decided to exit.
You can hear some of the St. Vincent influence on tracks such as “Bad Dance” which for the first few listens I heard as “Bat Dance”. Upbeat and raucous with distorted vocals, the band shouts the chorus. First single “Hurry On Home” could be about politics or a relationship with lyrics that ask to “disconnect me from my bones so I can roam”. At times it sounds a bit like Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Second single “Can I Go On” has a distorted 50s sound with a bridge that ups the dance factor. The chorus on penultimate song, “The Dog / The Body” is genuinely uplifting which is in sharp contrast to the title track that is slower and more vicious.
The best tracks here are the more straightforward ones like “Reach Out” that rides a great groove and the laid-back guitar sound of “Restless”. The album closes with spare piano and a moving vocal from Corin Tucker on “Broken”, a song that sounds lifted from an 80s RnB single. There are a few skippable moments and it is a curious decision to relegate a powerhouse drummer like Janet Weiss to the sidelines. However, it would be hard to discount whatever musical plans Brownstein and Tucker have next.