Sleater-Kinney release new album The Center Won’t Hold with an almost androgynous feel and themes based around machinery mechanical sounds, and robots.
The title track The Center Won’t Hold and Hurry on Home both have a stark and bold atmosphere. The Center won’t hold, in particular, sounds as if it was recorded with a working factory as a background. This album has an industrial futuristic feel to it. The exciting thing about it is that although it has been recorded by three women there is not a gender-specific restriction on the expression of the music. This then gives the flow of the music a great deal of freedom, and for this reason, the whole album is an understated feminist statement. The vocals remind me very strongly of Hazel O’Connor in Breaking Glass and indeed the feel of the album holds the same unapologetic attitude that is the hallmark of a strong performer. I am reminded of dystopian science fiction films such as Blade Runner and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. The track Reach out changes the tone to a softer sweeter track that has emotion and vulnerability.
The whole album covers a range of emotions, from detachment to fear to desire to sadness which turns to anger and, in this sense, the album feels like listening to a movie. The stand out track is I am the dog I am the body; this has an anthemic chorus and lyrics that say much about modern society and the way that it can make an individual feel: “I‘m just a sketch I’m just an outline, I’m just a prop I’m just a puppet”. It successfully combines both sweetness and strength in a powerful musical package.
The Future is Here is the most powerful track on the album, lyrically, and has an ingenious encapsulation of the isolation of modern life. Forget watching dystopian science fiction films – in this track, we are living that dystopia: “I start my day on a tiny screen try to connect the words that run from me I end my day on a tiny screen I try to reach for you through the empty sheets”. It holds the truth in its depiction of the anonymity and indifference of the modern world. It is a song full of despair but there is a beauty in the expression of that despair that allows the listener to connect on a very personal level.
Sleater-Kinney have created a strong album by three strong women with a bold and refreshing approach.