In the ‘90s, the music world evolved. Indie and alternative were becoming more mainstream, and feminism was making its way into rock ‘n’ roll. It was during this time a musical movement known as Riot Grrrl began. Bands like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile and L7 were all involved in the movement, which used rock music as a medium for expressing feminist views. They seemed to consist of mostly middle-class white feminist views, but the music was still memorable. For once, there was a true women’s movement in rock ‘n’ roll, and at the center of it was Sleater-Kinney.
From 1995 to 2006, Sleater-Kinney fought hard for the title of world’s best rock band and did not relinquish the title for a while. Two or three exceptional albums can be a difficult task to pull off, but Sleater-Kinney had seven. Then after releasing “The Woods,” their most prominent album yet, they announced they were going on hiatus.
Since this hiatus, the band members have all been doing well. Lead guitarist and singer Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss formed Wild Flag, Brownstein created the sketch comedy show “Portlandia” with friend Fred Armisen and rhythm guitarist and singer Corin Tucker began to focus more on her family.
In 2010, Tucker formed the Corin Tucker Band, with Seth Lorinczi on guitar (as well as handling production and engineering) and Unwound’s Sara Lund on drums. The band’s first album, “1,000 Years,” appeared to capture Tucker’s old glory. It was lyrical, it was restrained, it was a Corin Tucker album in a way no Sleater-Kinney album had been. Two years after its release, it’s replay value seemed to have dissipated.
The Corin Tucker Band follow-up album, “Kill My Blues,” was released September 2012; it did not get much publicity and the release seemed spontaneous. Like the band’s first album, “Kill My Blues” has been a critical success without exposure on its side. But the Corin Tucker Band’s sophomore album did not seem to be much different from the debut.
What made “1,000 Years” simultaneously interesting and unmemorable is all of its focus was placed on Tucker’s lyrics, without much energy being put into its rock ‘n’ roll side. “Kill My Blues” does the opposite. This time, Tucker is trying very hard to rock. So hard, in fact, that she doesn’t focus nearly enough on making sure her personality shines through. Instead, the album seems like a generic feminist rock album, which is definitely less than what Tucker is capable of creating.
The opening track, “Groundhog Day,” would qualify as a classic Sleater-Kinney song. It features some great vocals and a memorable hook: “Why? Is it so? Tell me something, are we living in slow-mo?” This song is followed by the title track, which has the less memorable hook, “Kill my blues with your love.”
For the most part, the album is hit-and-miss. One particular moment has “Neskowin,” a classic Corin Tucker song, followed by the throwaway “I Don’t Wanna Go,” which is in turn followed by “Constance,” another memorable song.
“Kill My Blues” peaks with the catchy “Summer Jams” before hitting its weakest moment, “None Like You.” This song reveals more than any other track why this album isn’t as tremendous as it should be. Tucker sounds so much like Patti Smith on “None Like You” that if the song were placed on one of Smith’s albums, you wouldn’t even say, “Patti Smith sounds a bit like Corin Tucker on this song.”
The main problem with the album is that Tucker, whose most interesting musical side is personal, has lost her identity in search of tunes. And the tunes are definitely here. Musically, the album works really well. I would rather listen to “Kill My Blues” than “1,000 Years” or, for that matter, “Wild Flag.” I appreciate “1,000 Years” more on a theoretical level, but I would still prefer to give any of the seven Sleater-Kinney albums a spin if given the choice.
When Corin Tucker was supplying the character, Carrie Brownstein was supplying the songs, and Janet Weiss was supplying the beats, the three were unstoppable. They’ve hinted that Sleater-Kinney might reunite and record another album in the next few years. If that’s true, we can hear some of their best work again. Even if it’s just for one more album, it would be wonderful to see the former best band in the world back in action.
Key Tracks: “Summer Jams,” “Neskowin,” “Groundhog Day” and “Constantine.”