Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won't Hold [Mom + Pop, 2019]
It took me more than a month and well over a dozen plays to finally hear this album as the extreme break Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker embrace and Janet Weiss wants out of. Misled by my mistrust of producer St. Vincent's polished professionalism and plain old art-rock, I was also put off--yet impressed as well--by the industrial drumbeat/cowbell that announces the title opener and then repeats every two seconds for the first two minutes of its three. But eventually I noticed myself perking up every time the CD began, because this wasn't just a hook but a grabby one--the grabbiest on an album that gives it competition straight through to the end. Though journalistic toilers seeking refuge from pop divadom may resent the album's musical efficiency, I find it meatier than either Charly Bliss or Taylor Swift, and those are records I like a lot. Moreover, it has politics from its Yeatsian opener to a closer that invokes both #MeToo and Hillary '16 if you want it to, plus "Hurry on Home" evokes an abusive husband as well as an abusive system whether Brownstein thinks so or not. Ah the elusive allusiveness of the hooky pop song. A-