The Center Won't Hold

The Center Won't Hold

Sleater-Kinney’s ninth album in 25 years—and their second since reforming in 2014 after a decade-long break—marks a new era of experimentation for the Portland rock band. “We’re truly in the middle period of Sleater-Kinney,” Carrie Brownstein tells Apple Music. “You're taking what you know and then figuring out the future. What can we rely upon? How can we change it?” The Center Won’t Hold was produced by Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent), and her boundary-pushing influence can be heard throughout. “We knew she was a fan of the band, and she's a friend of ours,” says Brownstein. “We knew she would bring something innovative and imaginative to it.” The record features longtime members Brownstein, Corin Tucker, and drummer Janet Weiss, who left suddenly before its release. “We really allowed ourselves to feel what we needed to feel and express what we needed to express,” says Tucker. “There's a lot of anger, but there's also some grief.” Here, Brownstein and Tucker talk through each song on The Center Won’t Hold. “The Center Won't Hold” Corin Tucker: “We really wanted to immediately set the stage with a catastrophic theme for the beginning of the album. An element of grief, almost like a funeral procession.” Carrie Brownstein: “It’s setting up the idea that this was going to be something unexpected. We’re taking the listener somewhere a little disorienting at first, to introduce the idea of something being a little of this or not quite right.” “Hurry On Home” Brownstein: “We wanted it to be dancy, but a guitar song as well. Even though it's more political-sounding, you're still in the very industrial world that we've taken you to. But I think that we add those metallic and industrial sounds even throughout a more pop song.” Tucker: “It's about modes of betrayal. Feeling lured in by the promise of something, only to have it be revealed as inadequate. Whether that's a person or a country or a politician, it's about feeling betrayed again by these institutions and infrastructures.” “Reach Out” Tucker: “Here, the narrator finds themselves in a really unexpected place. It’s like those feelings of despair have washed over them many times and they've been able to come back a little bit. There are themes of vulnerability and isolation, but this song is like a really direct plea for connection.” “Can I Go On” Brownstein: “We played with paradoxes and contradictions on this record, and the songs that deal with despondency are countered by catchiness and melodiousness. You have someone who's grappling with uncertainty and depression and self-annihilation. But then the choruses come together with group vocals. We purposely wanted to have the verses sung with a kind of loneliness, but then it comes together in the chorus as a metaphor for finding connection and allies.” “Restless” Tucker: “There is so much that is grotesque and ugly in ourselves and the world around us. Then trying to figure out what to do with it—that we're not just always given what's easier, what's beautiful in ourselves, in our relationships, in our friendships. People are complex, and this song wrestles with a lot of those complexities and it seeks acceptance. I think it seeks compassion.” “RUINS” Tucker: “This goes to full tragedy stage, but the narrator is just embraced in the situation and there's almost a bit of celebration with it because it is just so dark and it's so all-encompassing. It was really fun to record it with Annie and Carrie and Janet; I feel like we just exploded our sound as a band in a really exciting way.” “LOVE” Tucker: “‘RUINS’ really takes you into this void and relishes its place in that blackness. This is a break from that intensity. We were thinking a lot about resistance on this record, how much a body can withstand trespass and trauma. One of the fulcrums for resistance is collaboration and friendship, and ‘LOVE’ tells a story of one form of collaboration. Hopefully the song is a rallying cry, as a way of celebrating solidarity and togetherness as a way to keep pushing forward.” “Bad Dance” Tucker: “I think it takes the idea of complicity to its fullest point. The narrator is fully immersed and just enjoying what they can get out of the experience of corruption and cravenness. It's like a deranged creature.” “The Future Is Here” Tucker: “If ‘Bad Dance’ is like a terrible party, this is the next morning. Just realizing where we're at and reflecting on what that means and feeling sad about it and just connecting with those emotions, I think.” “The Dog/The Body” Brownstein: “I wrote this song after Tom Petty died, and I think it feels very Tom Petty in the chorus. There's these weird things when people leave you and leave this world. I remember listening to Tom Petty's music, but he’s not here. And that was a weird haunted feeling to me. With the chorus, Annie was like, ‘I just want this to sound like everyone's at a bar singing along at the end of the night, like when the lights come on.’” “Broken” Tucker: “This song is really about realizing that there's some social justice that hasn't happened in our country, and I probably won't see it in my lifetime. That's a sad feeling. There's mourning and grief there about the world we're living in.” Brownstein: “I think you have to find new ways of loving something and appreciating it. And it's good to kind of step outside of that comfort zone a bit. We’ve written on guitar for so long. But I'm such a fan of Corin's voice, and to hear her sing over a piano song for me is very rewarding.”

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