Since Sleater-Kinney took an indefinite hiatus following 2005’s Dave Fridmann-produced The Woods, Corin Tucker has seemingly been the most reluctant of the trio to explore extracurricular artistic ventures (compared to Janet Weiss dividing herself between Quasi and Stephen Malkmus’s The Jicks and Carrie Brownstein furthering her music journalism endeavours), preferring instead to concentrate on parenting duties and web designing. But given that Tucker’s unique voice ultimately defined Sleater-Kinney’s DNA, it was inevitable that she’d eventually be coaxed back into a studio.
The break has evidently given Tucker’s muse a much-needed re-charge and recalibration that puts a comfortable – but not over-stretching – distance between where she is now and where she’s been before. Aided by multi-instrumentalist/producer Seth Lorinczi (Golden Bears), drummer Sara Lund (Unwound), backing vocalist Julianna Bright (also from Golden Bears) and a two-person string section, 1,000 Years is an album fertile with carefully-planted details and passionately personal compositions.
The exact antithesis of The Woods’ widescreen-rock values, 1,000 Years possesses a lo-to-mid-fi sonic range that projects a basement-recording intimacy that suits Tucker’s matured though no less edgy songwriting. Consequently, it often feels like a veteran reconnecting with influential roots but without resorting to any clichéd ‘back-to-basics’ posturing. Thus, there’s a very sturdy push-pull dynamic and a new-found diversity, which counteracts the absence of her regular bandmates.
The stylistic pendulum swings back and forth strongly throughout the record; giving us Slits-like dub-punk (“Half A World Away”), folk-slanted ballads (“It’s Always Summer” and “Dragon”), stirring Riot Grrrl-meets-garage-rock (“Doubt” and “Riley”), quiet/loud psychedelia (“Handed Love”) and startlingly pretty piano-and-voice-led nakedness (“Miles Away”). Such mood swings suggest that Sleater-Kinney’s tight-drilling may have held Tucker back from exploring more imaginative avenues.
Not everything quite works however, as the somewhat clunky credit crunch politicking of “Thrift Store Coats” and the sludgy squalling of “Big Goodbye” illustrate. Moreover, a little more definition and a little less reticence in the vocal mix would have made Tucker’s life-affirming larynx and lyrics stand more confidently to the fore, where they belong.
Relatively minor misdemeanours aside though, 1,000 Years is a respectable and rejuvenated return to the fray for Corin Tucker’s febrile talents. Furthermore, it raises the bar high enough to foster some healthy sorority competition with Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss in their new Wild Flag outfit that’s due to cut a debut album in early-2011 for Merge.
The Corin Tucker Band – “Doubt”