DAVE DAVIES, Host:
Corin Tucker was one of the founding members of Sleater-Kinney, a 1990s trio that spearheaded the riot-girl movement in American post-punk. In recent years, Tucker has receded from the music business to focus on being a mom. But now she's back with a new group, The Corin Tucker Band, and an album called "1,000 Years." Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CORIN TUCKER: (Singing) New moon peeking through, now the sky is brand new. Feel it on my skin. Is it night or noon? It's been the blackest night...
KEN TUCKER: Corin Tucker's strong, surging voice was one of the most recognizable sounds of '90s rock. It cut through the careful clatter of Sleater-Kinney as a combination yell, wail and curse. It was a voice that served as its own manifesto, regardless of the lyrics she might be singing.
On "1,000 Years," and as leader of The Corin Tucker Band, her singing is frequently more subdued and intimate.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THRIFT STORE COATS")
TUCKER: (Singing) It happened one lazy afternoon. The kids had -played (unintelligible). Late made dinner and smashed up (unintelligible). Funds dried up. My job cut loose. Beans are all we have for you. Plant a garden, (unintelligible). We were spoiled our whole lives through. This is a task, see it through, frozen hopes and thrift-store coats. They don't cost a thing if you're broke. The plan we have is just a joke. We don't know a thing.
TUCKER: That's "Thrift Store Coats," describing a closed-in world with the minimalist details of a Raymond Carver short story.
On "It's Always Summer," the weather reflects the narrator's mood, and technology both helps and adds to the discomfort. She's feeling cold in every sense, talking to a guy who's in a distant climate where it's always summer. Meanwhile, she feels as though their conversations last 10 years long, and she's always moving the thermostat up another few degrees, as if that might also rekindle the heat in their relationship.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S ALWAYS SUMMER")
TUCKER: (Singing) The hotel bar stays open long. The party noise is audible. I'm on a phone call 10 years long. Is our connection breaking down? It's always summer where you are. It's always something.
TUCKER: One of the most striking songs on "1,000 Years," the one that connects to the themes Tucker used to wrestle with most often as part of Sleater-Kinney is "Doubt."
It takes the form of a flying wedge of slashing rock, the guitars and drums creating a headlong clamor that Tucker has to yell over. It wouldn't seem a setting for intimacy, but it is.
Tucker is arguing with herself in public, seeming to refer to the relative quietness of the rest of this album when she says she's trying to, quote, "break up with the boogie, turning down the sound, trying to live without it."
Yet, she concedes, it's when she's lost in the chaos of rock music that she loses her nagging doubts. This song, "Doubt," says that losing herself in music is the deepest drug, the tallest joy, I forget myself for a while. "Doubt" is both sad and exhilarating.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DOUBT")
TUCKER: (Singing) (Unintelligible) walked down my street. I fell for him. I fell complete. You know the familiar song called to me. There is no future that could come from this. There is no living if you want to live. Try, try, try to forget. (Unintelligible) forget myself for awhile.
TUCKER: "1,000 Years" is an album made by a woman who's put aside the excesses of her youth and occasionally misses them. She may be content with the domestic life she's created for herself, but I think it's significant that two songs, "It's Always Summer" and another rocker called "Riley," make phone conversations most prominent.
It's as though the songwriter is acknowledging that she's no longer living the rock 'n' roll life, and one of her primary means of contact with her previous life is conversations with people she used to hang out with, love or argue with.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
TUCKER: (Singing) Heard the phone ringing, it's been a while since I heard from you, since we hung out. Say hello, dear, how you been? (Unintelligible).
TUCKER: An air of heavy, often beautiful melancholy hangs over "1,000 Years." The songs drop hints of poignant discontent: a line about the zombie wearing Mommy's clothes here, a line about I'm just a shadow of what I used to be there.
There are references to the tough economy and hitting rock bottom. Taken together, however, the album is the opposite of a downer. Corin Tucker knows how to transmute melancholy into energy, a stubborn belief that what can feel like a trap can also turn into a map to freedom.
DAVIES: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed "1,000 Years," the debut album by the Corin Tucker Band.