Jul 01, 2021
By Matthew Berlyant
After the 2019 departure of longtime member Janet Weiss—an absolute monster drummer and fixture on every Sleater-Kinney record since 1997’s breakthrough third album Dig Me Out—just a month before the release of that year’s St. Vincent-produced The Center Won’t Hold (a record which Weiss is credited for, but barely plays on), the trio was reduced to the duo of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. Fans understandably wondered how the band would carry on or perhaps if they could even carry on.
While the loss of Weiss is clearly felt here on their new album, Path of Wellness, fortunately the answer is a resounding yes, they will carry on. While there are moments on this album that feel like “old” (1995-2005) Sleater-Kinney, specifically “Method” and especially “Complex Female Characters,” by and large this is the sound of duo getting more comfortable their new, slightly more stream-lined sound, and by extension, perhaps even themselves.
A notably much less all over the place, electronic-influenced (though the St. Vincent-influenced keyboards are still there, particularly on the opening title track), and disjointed record than the The Center Won’t Hold, this one feels like the come down from all of the fighting and tension of that era into something new. The lyrical concerns here seem more personal, too, with titles like the catchy single “Worry With You.”
An exception to this is “Shadow Town,” which seems to simultaneously reference the silence of city streets during the pandemic and last summer’s protests of police brutality after the killing of George Floyd. An old fan could be forgiven for being reminded of some of the tracks on 2002’s One Beat, particularly the 9/11 referencing “Far Away.” That feeling of tension after a traumatic national event is definitely present here.
Given that this album sounds a bit more like say, 2015’s No Cities to Love than their last album, it’s tempting to view this as a back-to-basics album or even a “comeback” album (from what?). While there is some truth to this, this is clearly a different band than the one that made towering classics like the aforementioned Dig Me Out or 2000’s All Hands on the Bad One. For starters, there is a bit less “fuck you” and “black and blue” here, to quote “Entertain” from 2005’s The Woods. That said, this is an album made by adults still concerned greatly with not just the plight of the world at large but also their own internal lives. (www.sleater-kinney.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
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