Corin Tucker Band - Kill My Blues
Since Sleater-Kinney, iconic 90s riot grrl trio, went on indefinite hiatus in 2006, its prodigal daughters have taken different, if sometimes intersecting, routes. Carrie Brownstein, owner/operator of one of the band's trademark duelling guitars, wrote and starred in the brilliant, surreal sketch show Portlandia. Drummer Janet Weiss became a jobbing stickswoman for the likes of Bright Eyes and Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, before settling back into full-time work with Brownstein as part of Wild Flag, whose critically acclaimed self-titled debut came out last year.
By comparison, it can look like Corin Tucker - her of the amazing battle horn of a voice, and Brownstein's guitar duelling partner - hasn't been up to much. She married music video director/documentarian/occasional Jackass participant Lance Bangs. They had a couple of kids. In 2010 she released the her first album under the Corin Tucker Band name, 1,000 Years. It got good reviews. The cover art, though - a simple line drawing of Tucker wielding an acoustic six-string - hinted at the change in direction.
It sounded like a Sleater-Kinney album recorded next door to the bedroom of two young children. The drums were muffled, the backing vocals more harmonious, and, worst of all, Tucker's signature howl - later adopted by the likes of Karen O - was curbed. Awkward ballads like 'It's Always Summer' were nice, but a far ways from the singer whose vocal style was intentionally harsh, to make sure the listener was actually listening to her political, feminist lyrics.
Which might have been part of the problem: the shift of interest from political to personal. Which is still a problem on the Corin Tucker Band's sophomore effort, Killy My Blues; but at least the volume dials been spun back to full.
With these twelve songs, there is something of a harking to Sleater-Kinney's glory days. Opener 'Groundhog Day' brings that distortion-causing voice back with a vengeance, Tucker "just kind of checking in" on a politically apathetic culture, a culture where "women's health care is still not where it should be, women's health and reproductive rights should be a given, an indelible right."
Fittingly, the music is loud and rockin'. Tucker's guitar work has the similar intricate, piercing sort of flow as before, still effective without Brownstein's to spar with. The drums sound like they've been looking forward to stretching their legs. Some organs on the title track make things even more head-bangingly seventies in sound, if not sensibility.
Other than that opening 2:29, however, it all feels a little...hollow. Tucker's yelling to get our attention again, but it doesn't seem like she has much to say. The fire in the belly, the engine, the bonfire that powered Sleater-Kinney so excitingly, if now more of those electric facsimiles of a fireplace with fake plastic coal at the front. It's certainly got some good singles, most notably the rhythmic, post-punk 'Neskowin', and 'Joey', a suitable tribute to the deceased Ramones frontman. But then it's also got meandering ballads like 'Tiptoe' (sensibly stuck at the end of LP).
Tucker herself described her new musical direction as "middle-aged mom rock" which, whilst possibly said with tongue in cheek, actually hits the nail right on the head.