It seems pretty unfair both that it’s impossible not to think about Sleater-Kinney on the release of The Corin Tucker Band’s debut and that this isn’t a Sleater-Kinney record. I mean, by so many accounts, there are no hard feelings between Tucker and former bandmates Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss. And it’s not like Brownstein and Weiss are exactly sitting around on their hands, waiting for the purported reunion sometime in the next five years. But seeing as this is a solid if not exciting record (nothing groundbreaking, nothing that can make anyone forget about S-K), the best way to think about 1,000 Years would be as a good warm-up for that reunion.
This doesn’t sound like a Sleater-Kinney album, for better and for worse. The better: Tucker’s not just relying on old tricks. The worse: I think my hankering for a followup to The Woods is pretty clear. It’s not just guitars and drums; there are more than token use of keyboards here, strings even, courtesy of Seth Lorinczi (of Golden Bears). Drummer Sara Lund (of Unwound) won’t make anyone forget Janet Weiss’ pummeling, but it’s serviceable to say the least. The opening title track is the perfect example of all of this. A chugging, distorted guitar opens things up, but Tucker and an acoustic guitar take the forefront shortly after. The break-up song is straightforward without being predictable, an achievement in and of itself.
“Half A World Away” makes a greater use of Tucker’s unique vocals, setting them at the forefront over a mix of alt-percussion toys (think sleigh bells, wood blocks) and a simple guitar line. Her maturity is a far cry from riot grrrl as well, about spending time apart from the spouse. The slick, hiccuping vocal melody is classic though, perhaps not the roaring vibrato, but certainly, undeniably Tucker. That added maturity, combined with the controlled nature of the music, is an interesting turn, one that suits Tucker well. She’s not going on in the same tone, the same attitude that she always had. She’s not denying the changes in life, something admirable in a musician with an already established career.
“It’s Always Summer” is almost folksy, acoustic guitar floating along with violin. “Doubt” is actually loud, something new for the disc, Tucker’s howl proving its back in full force. Lund’s drumming thumps along nicely, the organ-twinged bridge a great herky-jerky addition. The riffs are precise and deadly, hitting their marks directly. Despite its hard-rocking return to some semblance of a Sleater-Kinney territory, this is stripped down, almost mathematical. There isn’t that same loose, wild energy, but it’s an amazingly well written and performed tune.
“Dragon” follows, a dramatic acoustic/cello drainer, a song that builds and builds to a concussive finish. It’s not one that overpowers you with noise; instead, it pulses with raw emotion, the achy, empty drums and haunting vocals enough to carry the piece. Later, “Thrift Store Coats” is a reaction to the economic woes of the times. Its heart is in the right place, plus the active chord changes and rapid, evocative vocals are vaguely reminiscent of the Fiery Furnaces, a band I’d always felt took something away from Sleater-Kinney.
The attitude and demeanor here are just as important and interesting as the music itself. Tucker’s a personality that you can’t help but follow. But that isn’t to say that this all relies on her past musical experience. In fact, history aside, this is a good album. Occasionally it sticks on the overly personal, the distant, the subdued. But overall, it’s an emotional, intriguing record that demands repeat listens.