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Sleater-Kinney - Path of Wellness Music Album Reviews

Sleater-Kinney - Path of Wellness Music Album Reviews
On their first self-produced record and first in over 25 years without drummer Janet Weiss, Sleater-Kinney find pleasant comfort and not much else with down-the-middle rock tunes.

Ashift began in 2019 with The Center Won’t Hold, the closest Sleater-Kinney has ever come to making a pop album. Produced by Annie Clark, the record was a scattered and confusing anomaly. It bounded awkwardly between new wave and art-pop, sounding at times more like Sleater-Kinney covering a handful of St. Vincent songs. Shortly before its release, drummer Janet Weiss left the band; founding members Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker toured the album without her. The power of Sleater-Kinney was, for the first time in their 25-year career, slightly dimmed. 

Path of Wellness is the first Sleater-Kinney record without Weiss since 1996, and their first self-produced record ever. It is a course correction, a tricky and frustrating rock record full of well-executed and arranged songs. It’s pleasant enough to listen to with a friend, heavy enough to put on after an argument. But it’s missing something. In the band’s attempt to swing the pendulum back, they’ve lost their spark and urgency, the very stuff that makes Sleater-Kinney one of the most impactful rock bands of all time.

The album sounds best when Tucker and Brownstein allow themselves to let loose, be funny, and have fun. The scorching “Tomorrow’s Grave” has a sublime guitar solo as well as some characteristically witchy lyrics about being “the drought,” and “the barren land,” à la Dig Me Out’s “Jenny.” On the moody “Method,” Brownstein sings like she’s looking out the window at the rain as bluesy guitars unfurl around her. “Worry With You” captures the cheeky overconfidence of having three beers and then hopping on your bike. These songs aren’t exactly outliers, but they are some of the only ones that feel playful, where Brownstein and Tucker seem to be directly engaging with you.

Path of Wellness has the same aura as almost all previous Sleater-Kinney records. It’s tight as hell; Tucker’s wailing mezzo-soprano is as brutal and uncompromising as ever. The lyrics can be a bit corny and overdone, but this should come as no surprise to anyone who has heard “God Is a Number” or “The Ballad of a Ladyman.” The problem here is more of a spiritual one. Earlier Sleater-Kinney albums took the feminized undertaking of “shut up and smile” and turned it on its ear. A record like 1997’s Dig Me Out explored being present with your anger as a woman in a world where men constantly expect you to be submissive and sweet. It was also about heartbreak: about breaking up with your girlfriend and then having her sing backup vocals on the song you wrote about her. In 1999, The Hot Rock compared love to being riddled with tumors, turning the malaise that comes with realizing you’re growing up into intensely beautiful, brooding music. The best song on 2005’s The Woods is literally about jumping off a bridge; it leaves you feeling like someone ran a steamroller over your chest.

On the Path of Wellness, there is very little of that visceral way of exploring pain. Relatedly, there is also a complete lack of irony that is so crucial to the band’s ethos. A track like “Complex Female Characters” is so self-serious and humorless that it’s almost cloying. “You’re too much of a woman now/You’re not enough of a woman now,” sings Brownstein. The song’s feminism feels surface level, a critique of gender stereotypes in art plucked from an op-ed column in a campus newspaper. It strives to get close to the biting feminist and anticapitalist critique of “Modern Girl,” but it’s missing the shit-eating grin you envision Brownstein wearing when she sang about a donut with the hole of the entire world. Instead, it leaves you feeling weirdly empty.

As producers, Tucker and Brownstein are minimalists, which works for a band whose best songs are often the least cluttered. Path of Wellness is chilled out, almost effortless. It’s not such a bad thing to feel like you don’t have to work hard for what you’re listening to—but Sleater-Kinney used to put you in a headlock and hold you there. Their songs can make you feel crazy, give you whiplash, make you clench your jaw, kick a brick wall, eat a pill off the ground and then spit it up in someone’s face. There is none of that bleary-eyed rage on Path of Wellness. Moreover, very little happens at all. This music doesn’t prompt the kind of introspection that leads to personal breakthroughs; it doesn’t leave the world feeling more vivid, more exhilarating than it did before. Sleater-Kinney has made heart-stopping, philosophically challenging rock music. Path of Wellness takes a more pacifist stance, content to let life happen around it.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Sleater-Kinney - Path of Wellness Music Album Reviews Sleater-Kinney - Path of Wellness Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, June 22, 2021 Rating: 5

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