Corin Tucker won the hearts of the riot grrls in raw and gutsy band Heavens To Betsy and (later) in Sleater-Kinney. Confirmed fan Jess McCabe throws critical caution to the wind as she listens to Corin’s new album Kill My Blues
For women of my generation and background, a new album from the Corin Tucker Band can’t be approached with a calm or measured appraisal of its musical significance alone.
Corin Tucker was the guitarist and singer in riot grrl band Heavens to Betsy, before moving on to to what for me was one of the key feminist punk bands, Sleater-Kinney. I have all their albums. I have photos of myself at their gigs, literally grinning from ear to ear. Their tracks still, on occasion, find their way onto my iPhone, even six years since they officially went on hiatus.
I saw Sleater-Kinney live before I’d really heard their records. It was Tucker’s gigantic voice that sucked me in that night, and spat me out a confirmed fan girl. (She was co-vocalist with Carrie Brownstein, as well as playing guitar and drums.)
Just so you know I’m not alone in this, there are multiple Tumblr tags dedicated to this voice, such as Corin Tucker’s voice is heaven, and Corin Tucker’s banshee voice of sex. You can also get a sense of it in this video of Sleater Kinney and Pearl Jam covering ‘Hunger Strike’ in Mexico in 2003
Let’s face it, I was always going to devour the products of her next enterprise, the Corin Tucker Band. The debut, 1,000 years, was brilliant – even if it was a more subdued and mature tone. It was generally seen as her grown up album, reflecting her graduation from riot grrl to riot mom.
Her newest album, however, is in some ways a return to form. Where 1,000 years was largely non-political, Kill My Blues includes a number of righteous feminist songs. Where her debut was calm and a bit melancholy, much of the second album will have you bopping your head if not dancing around the room.
The opening track, in particular, ‘Groundhog day’, expresses Tucker’s exasperation with how little progress has been made towards achieving feminist aims. She sings:
I took some time to be a mom and have some kids
What’s up y’all? I thought we had a plan
Gonna move things forward
for us and women round the globe
Awake now, outside it froze
Instead of going forward, where the hell we going now?
It’s not all protest rock though – songs like ‘I don’t wanna go’, ‘Blood, bones and sand’ and ‘No bad news tonight’ seem to hint at, if not spell out, more personal stories of love, life, grief and parenting.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m not the most impartial of observers of Tucker’s career. Kill My Blues will particularly please Sleater-Kinney fans, perhaps especially those who were a tad disappointed by the change of pace in 1,000 years. Some of the tracks are, inevitably, stronger than others – and the best seems to be clustered near the beginning of the record.
Obviously, decades on from tracks like ‘Real man’ , ‘The professional’ and ‘I wanna be your Joey Ramone’, the Sleater-Kinney alumni are not going to be rehashing the same material. There is always the temptation for fans to demand this, but in fact the best reward to the listener comes when musicians progress creatively. And that’s what’s happening here.
That said, I feel confident recommending it even to Tucker newbies. You can listen to the whole thing for free on the band’s website here.
Q&A with Corin Tucker
Q: What do you think of feminism these days – do you really think we’re just ‘fighting the same battle over and over again’, or have things moved on?
I think the interpersonal dynamic between men and women has progressed, or maybe we are just older and more mature, in my generation. It’s really political power for women that is missing in the US.
Q:There seems to be a seaside influence in both 1,000 years and the new album. Is that right? If so, what’s behind it?
We are close to the ocean in Oregon, it’s always been a love of mine.
Q: The new album has a lot more energy than 1,000 years. Why is that?
I think the band kind of gelled as unit, after touring together and playing together more.
Q: What bands are you listening to these days?
I saw Wye Oak at the Hideout Festival in Chicago and really enjoyed them.
Q: I know everyone must ask you this, but our readers will be dying to know – is there any chance of a Sleater-Kinney reunion?
S-K is still on hiatus now, thanks for asking.
Q: Will you be touring in the UK?
Unfortunately I don’t think that will be possible, but we send our warmest wishes to our UK fans.
Kill My Blues is out now
First image is the sleeve to The Corin Tucker Band’s album Kill My Blues. Image shows a woman waterskiing, her eyes have been blacked out. The words The Corin Tucker Band are in white on black, and the title Kill My Blues is written in pink
Second images is of Corin Tucker performing live in Kansas on 12 October 2012. It was taken by sidmuchrock, and is being deployed via a flickr creative commons licence
Video commentary: This is the video to The Corin Tucker Band’s ‘Neskowin’. The video is constructed along the lines of a teenage Hollywood film, and is a clever homage to and satire of such cultural references as Mad Men, That Seventies Show, The Runaways and punk/’50s generation clashes. The video begins with a sullen teenage girl feigning sickness to get out of a car journey with her parents and younger sister. She then invites her friends round, they dance, play records, try on clothes and put on makeup. They then hitch into a town or city and run amok at a bar and attend a punk gig. At the end of the video we see the girl asleep in bed, being checked on by her mother. Both the singer in the X-Ray Spex style punk band and the mother are played by Corin Tucker