Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sleater-Kinney: Path of Wellness [Mom + Pop, 2021]
As a Janet Weiss lifer, I'm surprised to conclude that Corrie and Corin are better off without her. A quarter century on, both needed room to stretch out moodwise as well as musicwise, although there's definitely that--would you believe that occasionally this album is, well, bouncy? (How about listenable?) In this moment in their and our parallel histories they need as much room as their skill sets can accommodate whether addressing love's vagaries--which are doubly various when one of you has stuck with a single domestic partner for decades and the other hasn't. Then there's the problem of understanding how a home city whose laid-back hipness the right multi-talent could spend eight TV seasons satirizing turned into a culture-war war zone. The love songs concocted by the changeable Brownstein outnumber those of the stabler Tucker, sharp from the infatuated "High in the Grass" to the try-a-little-tenderness "Method" to the sardonic "Complex Female Characters" no matter how loudly Tucker's "Worry With You" resonates with more settled fans. As for Portlandia, the fragmentary "No Knives" evokes the p.c. quirks that from "Favorite Neighbor" to "Bring Mercy" are forgiven and all but forgotten as evildoers assault its tolerant streets. A