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Sleater-Kinney's 'The Center Won't Hold' Is This Month's Essentials Record

Everything You Need To Know About Why We Picked The Legendary Group's New Album

On July 25, 2019

In August, members of Vinyl Me, Please Essentials will receive an exclusive edition of The Center Won't Hold, the ninth LP from legendary rock band Sleater-Kinney. Vinyl Me, Please's edition comes on exclusive red vinyl, in a tip-on jacket with silver foil. Read below for the details of our release. You can sign up to receive it here.

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Why We Picked This

VMP: Tell me why we picked Sleater-Kinney.

Amileah Sutliff, Associate Editor, Interviewed The Band For VMP: For starters, the fact that there’s another Sleater-Kinney album rules. The last album was a surprise, this album was a surprise… in the very literal sense, they’re an iconic band. So when I heard we got the chance to even listen to the new Sleater-Kinney album — let alone that there was one, and St. Vincent produced it — I was on board before I even heard it. And then I heard it, and I was even more on board; it’s a cool record.

So, they release relatively infrequently? With everything being a surprise, how often do they release stuff?

Their band’s history has been so tumultuous: for a while, they’ve been on-again, off-again. The last few albums, it’s been like, “Oh, this is the last Sleater-Kinney album…” and then it’s not. The fact that they’ve been making music together for 20-25 years, that’s wild; you don’t always expect another album from that. Something the band really emphasized — and hadn’t occurred to me, until I thought about it — I can’t think of three women that age still putting out records, and that’s kind of nuts. I think it was a bit of a surprise to everyone that three — it’s crazy that you have to say “aging women” because they’re not, they’re young, but for the industry — aging women putting out a record like that. I was also trying to figure out why it seemed like a shock that that was the case, but it’s just not something you see a lot.

So they’ve been making music as long as you’ve been alive. In that time, what has their legacy meant to you as far as how their music’s impacted your life?

I think [they’ve informed] some of my first encounters with feminism, in the sense of it not being this scary, academic thing. It’s not something I grew up knowing about: I started listening to Sleater-Kinney in late-high school, and then started learning about that stuff once I got to college: what it means to self-publish, what grassroots movements were, what DIY culture is and where that came from. In that sense, listening to them gave me context for some of the stuff that young people of our age are doing with organization, and where that came from, through their music. I think, from a young age, I was really drawn to the idea that they were a part of something: [for example,] they were self-publishing their own zine. I think you see that a lot now, and I think you see it in the new album in a different way, but it almost being beyond the music.

People within the Riot Grrrl movement have been very critical of the movement, and some of its failings. I think, within white feminism, they were some of the first people to be talking about that stuff at the time, but — more than some other circles of ’90s feminism — they’ve been more critical of that in retrospect. I think this record does a really interesting job of examining failings: a lot of the storylines at least abstractly reference things deteriorating, or not being enough. I think when you have the context of that 20 years of this really politically based music, but then you’re making that music in this era, I think it’s interesting when you can be self-aware about what’s failed you.

Like any good movement, you see what the hell’s wrong with it. Especially when you’re more removed from the context you initially came up in.

Yeah, but I think sometimes, for some reason, when you have these young people that are involved with a movement, and then they leave and realize there were failings within that, there’s shame around that. And they don’t wanna keep making art, they’re like, “Oh, I’m gonna leave it to the youth.” Sleater-Kinney was like, “We still have a voice, we have a platform. We can look back and see where certain things went wrong.” That’s cool when you can do that instead of hanging up your coat ’cause you were successful back in the day.

Who would be their successors as far as groups today? Do they have any? Even groups that aren’t doing the exact same thing, but could be canonized in that lineage?

I feel like you’re seeing a lot of influence with smaller, punky indie bands like Cherry Glazerr, FEELS, Hickeys, a lot of international all-girl punk bands… You can hear it in their sound, but I think it’s interesting that you don’t necessarily see a cohesive movement like Riot Grrrl again. I feel like you’re seeing more super-queer punk — Sleater-Kinney were queer, too — so I feel like Sleater-Kinney paved the way in terms of bringing super-queer punk to the mainstream. I think you still see that today, and that sort of DIY ethos, in other genres that may not necessarily sound like them. Print mediums, visual albums... I feel like it’s been more of a common thing.

Knowing we’re gonna release this as our Record of the Month before people can hear it, what does it sound like?

I really enjoyed it the first time I heard it. I think Sleater-Kinney’s known, just from where they came from, for having that DIY sound. Not necessarily their last record, but you think of Dig Me Out and punky, rough-around-the-edges stuff… if you think of this album as being produced by St. Vincent, it’s definitely more polished. It’s more massive: Corin said she was in the studio playing a timpani. It’s varied, a lot of new sounds; it’s new, it’s different. Most of their other music... you can scream it, but that’s about it, you know what I mean? This is easier to sing along to.

Another thing that struck me right away: It slows down a lot. There’s a couple of songs I dare to call ballads on here, and you definitely don’t see that from Sleater-Kinney a whole lot. It definitely has more tender moments than you’d think.

Packaging Details

What’s the packaging like on this?

We’ve got it on red vinyl, with a gatefold tip-on style jacket. The cover’s really cool: It’s a collage of slices of each band member’s face. A lot of their imagery is centered around this chopped-up, then put-back-together imagery, which I think is on point with what a lot of the songs are trying to get at. Not necessarily in the most political way — it isn’t like ‘Woohoo! Trump Era Album!’ — it’s nuanced personal narratives about when you’re broken, and you have to look at things and literally put them back together.

I was really interested when they said they were gonna be on the album cover, especially when a lot of them talked about the fact that they are aging women. Granted, it isn’t in the most traditional sense, but they haven’t been on a cover since Dig Me Out; they were my age when that album came out. I think it’s interesting that they decided to go the photoshoot route for this one.


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