Music Matters: Corin Tucker


By the end (I’m hoping not for good, but for now, anyway) of Sleater-Kinney Corin Tucker’s voice was a finely honed weapon, full of deep, slow, sexy soul and capable of an earsplitting wail, a bonechilling snarl, a rock’n’roll howl that didn’t so much as defy gender as rip the guts straight out of it.

Her new record, 1,000 Years puts that voice front and center, without the thrash that made The Woods so threatening* at the time.

The Corin Tucker Band played at the Bowery Ballroom last night, and I wasn’t going to miss that (the way I missed Sleater-Kinney twice by inches and cursed myself for it when they split up) for anything. Exhaustion be damned, right?

So I went. With an old friend from Bust-mag interning days, and we had dinner and a half-price bottle of wine and posh Rice Krispy Treats (no, really) before the show and rolled in at the end of the second opener’s set (sorry).

And we’d been talking through that bottle of wine about feminism and music and pop culture and what it all means, about photography and nostalgia and all the things I wrote about here, because well when you’re going to see one of the members of one of your favorite bands performing solo, you’re naturally thinking about nostalgia.

But that’s not fair to the music, is it? The song above, “Miles Away,” gives me chills on the lousy recording in that YouTube video—imagine what it did live. Her new songs are designed, created, wrapped lovingly around that voice to let it do what it does best, and while there’s no rocker wail in most of them there’s a kind of raw beauty that hits me in a different place than Sleater-Kinney did.

They’re sort of what I always wish Cat Power was—that big powerful voice that you feel down in your heart, guts and groin, but filled out by some rock chops instead of spare, wispy arrangements that never seem to measure up.

The pull quote that’s bounced around everywhere about this record is Corin saying “It’s definitely more of a middle-aged mom record,” but like all out of context quotations most publications leave off the rest, where she says “It’s not a record that a young person would write.”

I joke that I’m getting country as I get older, that I spend less time listening to punk rock (and actually turned down free passes to Bad Religion last night ‘cause I had tickets for Corin, but the phone call from my friend with the offer made me laugh: “Sarah Jaffe, you’re a punker…”). My music now isn’t all about changing the world. And that’s OK.

Sometimes what’s revolutionary is allowing myself to breathe and feel and trust myself. To say “OK, this is what I need right now.”

The crowd kept thanking Corin, last night. I expected someone to be an asshole and yell for a Sleater-Kinney song, “I wanna be your Joey Ramone,” maybe, but no one did. Instead, the calls were “That was beautiful,” and maybe even an “I love you.” And I agreed with all of them—thank you, that was beautiful, I do love you (in the way you love people you knows nothing about, really, except that their art has touched you and helped make you who you are).

Corin Tucker has got eight years and a child on me, and when I passed on the video for “Riley” to a friend of mine she noted “It’s so strange to see a grown woman in a rock video.” Grown woman—inherently I suppose that’s no more or less dismissive than “middle-aged mom,” it depends on context and tone. For my friend and I, Corin’s new record comes along at a point in our lives when we need music that talks to us as grown women, with the damage and hurt and recovery and rebirths that we’ve seen in our lives so far and will keep seeing, world without end.

And so. Thank you, Corin Tucker. I needed that.

*For the record, I think The Woods is one of the most innovative and flat-out best rock records of the last 20 years, and I mean threatening in an entirely good way.

by Sarah Jaffe
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3 Comments Have Been Posted

Thanks for this!

Some of the reviews I heard/read for this have not been very good. However, your perspective encouraged me to go get this. P.S. I agree - The Woods was indeed their best. album. ever. Even with the "thrashing."

Rock on!

I saw them in San Francisco and they were fantastic. I was also wondering whether people would cry out for S-K songs but everyone was just blissed out to hear her do her thing. It took me a while to get into the new album because I wanted it to sound like S-K but once I took it on its own terms it won me over. I am so happy all three of them are making music again and looking forward to the Wild Flag show next month. I just started listening to S-K this spring but totally agree with your assessment of The Woods and wish I had known about and been inspired by them when I was in my teens and early 20s.

Thank You.

Thank you so much for this sensitive, nuanced portrait. I absolutely love this album, and think anyone who has criticized Corin Tucker Band is missing the point. She is giving us back the angel of her voice; she allows us to hear more of it than we ever did in Sleater-Kinney. She makes herself bare for us, and that major shift signifies her growth as an artist (don't we want that for Corin?) and a gift to SK fans. We have to evaluate her new work on its own terms, and part of that is entering the music with an open mind.

Moving on doesn't necessarily mean an end to something we love. It means a different way to love, and I do. "It's Always Summer" and "Miles Away" are some of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, and if you're looking for vintage Corin, check out the cover she did of "It's Obvious" by Au Pairs. You can take the girl out of Sleater-Kinney, but you can't take the Sleater-Kinney out of the woman. It's obvious.

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