I've had some good times with Sleater-Kinney over the years. Mostly in the early part of this century when I first saw them on Italian television while I was in Catania, Sicily, by chance, playing You're No Rock and Roll Fun, still my favourite song of theirs. It feels like a novelty song in some ways, but the best possible ways. Most of all, it's the sound of three people doing exactly that. Having some Rock and Roll Fun.
Twenty years on they've parted company and come back together and started makeing records again. Crucially, they've also lost a member, drummer Janet Weiss, who left in 2019, apparently because of the long cited, 'musical differences'. This leaves them with their core, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. Their latest album Path of Wellness, is just out.
It doesn't really sound like 'Rock and Roll Fun', particularly. Why should it? They're almost thirty years down the line now. Path of Wellness sounds like a well written, well played and well produced Rock record, trying to make sense of a world that seems increasingly difficult to make sense of. It has the customary Sleater-Kinney howls, shrieks and yelps of indignation. It has some hooks that you might be able to tease something more out on repeated plays. But on my first play through of this, I'm not sure I really want to do so.
Because, first and foremost, it's not much fun. It's rather earnest and worthy. Sleater-Kinney were always serious, they always had plenty to say, and plenty of ideas and sounds worth investigating. But this seems a bit strained somehow, like a long and difficult looking reading list for a university seminar course. Like a book you feel you ought to read, rather than one you particularly wish to. I'll give it a couple more plays to see if it works its spell on me. I like this lot but I'm not sure, for me at least, that Path of Wellness is a keeper. In the words of that song, it feels like 'a piece of art that no-one can touch.'