It’s understood that any review of a record by a former Sleater Kinney member is going to be inexorably tethered to and measured by the highest heights and elatedly enthusiastic expectations left in the wake of her legendary group. In other words, listening to The Corin Tucker Band’s debut album 1000 Years and not drawing any parallels would be like meeting Jesus during The Rapture without mentioning his first go-round and asking how his father is doing.
Tucker should relish the well-deserved scrutiny. Sleater Kinney earned it largely by abiding three unwritten rules of breaking up. Firstly, they disbanded at the height of their powers after releasing The Woods in 2005, touring with Pearl Jam and playing to arena-sized audiences. Secondly, they knew when to bow-out, never hinting at artistic decline, and in doing so preserved their legacy. More importantly, during their twelve year career, their output ran from riot grrrl roots to pop punk to ’70s rock radio jams, melding the roaring chemistry between all three members in always surprising stylistic evolutions. They were a great band with which to grow up.
It’s been four years since Tucker has released anything, but for as quickly as popular music changes, it seems like a thousand. Plenty of water has passed beneath the bridge. Two years ago she had a daughter, her second child. And her old band mates are participating in other projects. For fans of her previous work, 1000 Years is a return to themes of empowering the disenfranchised; of love and the physical and emotional distance that affects both. If this is your first experience with her, you’ll find much to like, and you have some catching up to do.
Band members Seth Lorinczi of Golden Bears and Sara Lund of Unwound are solid musicians, the former adding soft keyboards, chimes, and even cello and violin on “Dragon,” while Lund’s drumming is often inventive, adding woodblock on “It’s Always Summer.” Still, nobody will mistake this for anything other than a new vehicle for Corin Tucker. Even when she breaks out the whammy bar on songs like “Big Goodbye” and the fiery single “Doubt,” it’s the sound of an accomplished musician drawing careful, instinctual aim before firing her riffs.
Tucker’s singing is more soulful, frequently haunted and hushed on the title track. “If I leave too long, will I lose my place?” she wonders on “Miles Away.” Her voice remains quintessentially genital, so primal and pelvic, which is a significant reason that her work from Heavens to Betsy onward evokes such stirring, almost animalistic response. Her songwriting strength has always been her ability to blend and balance both sides of the belt. And clearly, she’s missed her muse. “Break up with the boogie/ Break up with the beat,” she sings, describing her inability to call off her love affair with music that started 20 years ago.
In the Kill Rock Stars press release for 1000 Years, Tucker says the idea of recording came together after playing charity benefits last year, when some friends suggested she record them. Given how catchy, passionate and well written these songs are, they must have been quite persuasive. Everything she’s done here sounded momentous, as though restraining it was never an option, and might have caused her bodily harm. She may not wail as much as she used to, but neither does her fan base. Sometimes the simmer brings out more flavor than the boil.
Sleater-Kinney – One Beat
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones
Helium – The Dirt of Luck