It’s okay to feel uncomfortable – that’s the point.
Sleater-Kinney have always worn their politics on their sleeves, though never in their 25 years have they delivered something quite as introspective as The Center Won’t Hold.
There is a sense of desperation, defeat even – each word is a punch in the gut that leaves you wincing – but that’s not to say they’ve given up. There is a fury beneath the hurt, a fire fuelled by the fear.
“Everyone I know is tired/And everyone I know is wired/To machines, it’s obscene/I just scream ‘til it don’t/Hurt no more” muses ‘Can I Go On’ while ‘The Future Is Here’ further explores the point of our digital obsession.
Amidst the search for meaning, Sleater-Kinney also direct their seething glare towards US politics. Closer ‘Broken’, a stripped-back piano ballad, dives into the Brett Kavanaugh scandal and #MeToo movement with piercing poignancy: “She, she, she stood up for us, she testified/Me, me too/My body cried out when she spoke those lines”.
Between the droning synth and clanking percussion of the title track to the abrasive, crackling feedback of ‘Bad Dance’, the influence of St Vincent as producer is blatant. Though The Center Won’t Hold certainly doesn’t abandon Sleater-Kinney’s punk roots.
Like the world it describes, The Center Won’t Hold is confronting, restless and confused. Yet, even in its most vulnerable moments, there is an undeniable strength. There’s hope yet, at least if Sleater-Kinney have anything to do with it.