When drummer Janet Weiss unexpectedly announced her departure from Sleater-Kinney, it was with the explanation that the feminist rock agitators were heading in “a new direction” - the unspoken addendum being that it was one she cared not for. And true, though the band have always mixed punk catharsis with melody, ‘The Center Won’t Hold’ is by far their most stylised, radio-friendly work to date; produced by St Vincent, Annie Clark’s icy sheen and dark seduction is all over the record.
Yet this isn’t an album that bends to the mainstream machine, it’s one that uses its tools to subvert even more slyly, soaring and stabbing in equal measure. On single ‘Hurry On Home’ - a sleazy, prowling thing - they use insults previously levered at them as a chorus (“Unfuckable, unlovable, unlistenable”), while ‘Ruins’ uses grizzled synths to paint the apocalypse around them (“Eat the weak… Nothing left but ruins…”). ‘The Dog / The Body’ meanwhile is melodically simple and streamlined, where slinking highlight ‘Bad Dance’ is a party at the end of the world. The soundtrack might have changed, but there’s still plenty of antagonistic glory to be found.