Watching Sleater Kinney at the Albert Hall in 2015 on their first tour since reforming, was a reminder of how much of a gap in my musical world there had been in the intervening years since they split. I was lucky enough to see them numerous times over the years, and even managed to grab an interview with them for my zine in their early days (great for me, probably not so much for them, as I handed them a previous issue of the zine, glue still not properly dry, went all over their fingers – not great when you have a gig to play soon after!)

Snap back to the present day, and Sleater Kinney still occupy that revered spot in my music collection. I had to admit that I was slightly apprehensive about new stuff though, prior to hearing their first album since reforming, ‘No Cities To Love‘, as you’re desperately hoping they’ll have that same magic which you feel for the first time around. So, far so good.

For this second album since reforming (their ninth in total so far), they’ve enlisted the help of Annie Clark a.k.a. St Vincent, who has helped to steer their songs in a slightly different direction, whilst still capturing the core essence of that Sleater Kinney sound. Lyrically events in the USA over the last few years have provided plenty for both Tucker and Brownstein to get their collective teeth into, yet there’s also compelling lines to be found throughout the album focusing on everything from an LA variety show on ‘The Future Is Here’ to being inspired by novelist George Saunders’ approach to creativity on the expansive ‘Reach Out’.

‘Love’ is a beautiful platonic song of affection by Brownstein, for her bandmate and friend Tucker, the band in general, and the musical experiences they’ve all shared. There’s still much to rally against though as ‘Broken’ finds Corin Tucker recalling the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford  in the case against Brett Kavanaugh “She stood up for us when she testified, me, me too, my body cried out when she spoke those lines” over a subtle piano melody.

There’s a darker electronic sound on ‘Ruins’, with synths and a dystopian, unnerving element, yet the interweaving guitar lines which helped to define the band’s forward thinking approach to music, still blend together seamlessly, jarring and unnerving one minute, and sweetness and melodic the next. Coupled with the twin attack on vocals from Tucker and Brownstein, it’s still unmistakably Sleater Kinney, yet there’s more experimentation and a desire to keep moving their sound forward which still makes ‘The Center Won’t Hold’ so exciting.

They’ve come a long way from gracing the pages of many a cut and paste zine in the 90s, to a band now referenced by many as having a defining influence on their sound. This will be the last album to feature drummer Janet Weiss, so the ever evolving Sleater Kinney will have to evolve yet again next time around, but given the fact that they’ve managed to do so with such ease bodes well for whatever they choose to do next. Full of unexpected twists, it’s another shimmering guitar triumph of an album.

Sleater Kinney: The Center Won’t Hold – Out 26th July 2019 (Mom & Pop Records)


From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.