The five years immediately following the beginning of Sleater-Kinney’s indefinite hiatus (still on, for the time being) made for one of the longest half-decades in recent memory. In an indie rock landscape that’s been increasingly dominated by dreamy pop or beard folk (Full disclosure: I, too, have a beard), a glaring void existed where the Portland trio’s complex, serpentine guitar interplay and thunderous punk rock anthems once stood proudly. So in 2010, when Corin Tucker released her debut solo album, 1,000 Years, it marked a much-needed return from the S-K frontwoman, if a somewhat surprising one. The once fire-throated belter had eased off the yelps and largely traded in her abrasive riffs for a muted, subtler take on indie pop. Sure, the songs were good, but I’m not going to sit here and lie to you good people about not missing some electric rockers; I did.
That’s not an issue with Kill My Blues, the second album by Corin Tucker Band. More so than on 1,000 Years, the “Band” in Corin Tucker Band is much more prominently engaged. Joined once again by Sara Lund and Seth Lorinczi, with new member Mike Clark (also of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks), Tucker heads up a newly energized foursome that has gotten much of the kinder, gentler approach out of their system and embrace the kind of new wave and punk approach that garnered Tucker notice in the first place, albeit with richly nuanced undertones and an endearing sense of playfulness.
From the get-go, Tucker carries a knowing smirk that sets her new material apart from some of the more intense material that made albums like The Woods so simultaneously devastating and invigorating. With “Groundhog Day,” she acclimates her audience, noting, “I took a rest/ I took some time off/ be a mom, have some kids” before asking “Where the hell we going now?” But she makes up for any lost time with a brilliant rush of handclaps and crunchy power chords, and the unmistakable voice of a woman whose band once redefined punk rock. That’s our Corin.
The highlights come pretty quick and frequently from that point on. A fuzzy organ drives the title track toward a manic tumble of guitar riffs. “Neskowin” grooves on a dancepunk rhythm, yet reaches a similarly explosive climax. And “Constance” turns what might have been a slow-burning dirge into a Zeppelin-heavy stomper thanks so some deft drum work from Lund, whose ribcage-rattling beats take some already hard rocking songs that much farther into something much heavier. And once again, Lund proves herself as one of the best drummers performing today.
That Corin Tucker Band comprises an unstoppable group of musicians isn’t really news. Yet Kill My Blues, in contrast to the much more subdued 1,000 Years, shows off their talents in a much stronger way. This isn’t the work of a singer-songwriter; it’s the statement of a rock band, plugging in and chugging away, and sounding like they’re having a great time doing so. That kind of energy can be infectious, and on Kill My Blues it emanates from every last beat.
Stream: Corin Tucker Band – “Neskowin”