As we anxiously await the release of their ninth studio album, The Center Won’t Hold, Sleater-Kinney has provided us with another excellent little alternative-pop track in “Can I Go On.”
The newest Sleater-Kinney track, much like its predecessor, is candy-coated. Produced by the pop weirdo herself, St. Vincent, this song is the sonic equivalent of a candy apple: shiny, sweet on the outside, tart in the center—and if you’re not careful, you can cut yourself on some of its jagged edges. Sure, it’s not the grungy katzenjammer that Sleater-Kinney is known for, but it’s still undeniably good.
Certainly, there are detractors of this single. Any time a band eschews grit for sheen, someone will complain. But in this case, the sheen works. Sleater-Kinney have nothing to prove but their own genius. And if you want to debate their punk credentials, you’re going to have to find somebody who cares, because they don’t.
To make one thing crystal clear, “Can I Go On” is, by all accounts, a pop song.
Musically speaking, this could just as easily be a song by HAIM, rather than Sleater-Kinney. What makes it stand out, is of course, Carrie Brownstein’s signature wail, that at this point, is just as iconic as Billie Joe Armstrong’s East Bay Punk snarl or Julian Casablancas’ baritone growl. Stripped of that, the song isn’t exactly memorable—but since this is her song it will never be without her voice. Crisis averted.
Even if it could be argued that St. Vincent polished these Riot Grrrl heroes a little too much, there’s still something thoroughly enjoyable about this shiny, new Sleater-Kinney. It’s still cool girl music—the kind of sound that makes you feel unstoppable, the kind of song that feels like it’s an anthem, of sorts. It’s not underground or DIY, but why would anyone expect it to be? Sleater-Kinney has been an iconic band for at least a decade. To expect them to produce the same record they did in 1995 would be silly. Artists are supposed to grow.
And anyway, we’d also complain if they stayed the same. Yeesh. Everyone’s a critic.
Sure, “Can I Go On” doesn’t exactly grab you, and when compared to “Hurry On Home,” it’s not as memorable; but it’s still a sharp song from a great band and is an exciting precursor to The Center Won’t Hold, which is less than 10 days away.
If there’s anything right in this world, it’s that we have good music to look forward to.
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