You can always spot a trend in lazy internet music criticism. All you have to do is look for a phrase that appears in literally every review of a given album, regardless of whether or not the reviewers like or dislike the album in question. For example, I’ve seen some variation of the following sentence in literally every review I’ve read of the Corin Tucker Band’s 1,000 Years: “Fans of Sleater-Kinney are bound to be disappointed by the comparatively quiet 1,000 Years.” Sentences like that frustrate me on several levels. For one thing, it gives me the impression that internet music critics (and there is nothing in life that is easier to be, by the way. I should know) are just reading and paraphrasing each other’s shit. That’s first degree laziness. But the laziness of internet music critics isn’t as disturbing to me as the fact that the quoted assertion is demonstrably false. You need maybe two or three Sleater-Kinney fans to like 1,000 Years to prove that Sleater-Kinney fans can have room in their hearts for Corin Tucker’s former band and her current one. I can already count myself as one and I’m betting I can find you three or four more without much effort.
I feel like the critics I’ve read on the subject of the Corin Tucker Band are constructing a narrative about 1,000 Years and projecting it onto the album – Corin Tucker focused on her family after Sleater-Kinney parted ways so of course her first post-Sleater release is going to be quiet and all about her kids and therefore no one who rocked out to “Jumpers” is going to dig it. That makes it easy to write five hundred words about the album without thinking too hard. While it’s understandable to do the compare/contrast thing between Tucker’s old gig and her new one, that doesn’t really tell the whole story.
Fully one third of what made Sleater-Kinney so unbelievably badass is present on 1,000 Years: namely, Corin Tucker’s voice, which is still in very fine form, thank you very much. The big difference is that Tucker doesn’t engage (as often) in the admittedly raucous yelling thing she did so masterfully on The Woods. But this isn’t really a yelling album; it’s a singing album. If you can handle that, you are probably capable of liking all or most of 1,000 Years.
Reading all the press about Tucker taking family time after Sleater-Kinney’s
break-up hiatus actually made me a little nervous for her solo(ish) debut. I have nothing against Tucker’s two children, but the last thing I want from any musician I respect is an album’s worth of schlock about how fucking cute their kids are or about how motherhood has totally changed their life (Dear Friends of Mine Who Have Kids: I’m not suggesting that motherhood doesn’t change your life and I’m not suggesting it’s in any way bad. I’m merely pointing out, with years and years of shitty music to offer as evidence, that songs about kids pretty much always suck donkey balls. That is all. Love to you and the kids). Fortunately, it seems Corin Tucker understands my pain and made an album that ends up being largely about how much she misses her husband, filmmaker Lance Bangs (this dude directed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs video for “Down Boy”, the video for Menomena’s “Wet and Rusting,” and the David Cross documentary Let America Laugh. Hell, I want to have his babies now), when he’s out shooting movies in places like Africa. This subject matter could also bode ill for 1,000 Years, but Tucker handles it with earnestness and some damn fine melodies, rendering the whole experience not only painless but downright pleasant.
So yes, the instrumentation is similar but a little quieter than Sleater-Kinney’s was. And sure, Tucker swoons more than she screams on this album, but implicit in the assertion that Sleater-Kinney fans won’t dig 1,000 Years is the idea that Sleater-Kinney fans are only capable of liking one thing, like 80s metal-heads were (I’m not just saying that to say it. I was a bit of a metal-head in the 1980s and I hated everything else on principle – Chuck Klosterman can probably back me up on this, if there is even one shred of truth to his hilarious Fargo Rock City). If I may paraphrase Bertolt Brecht (and since this is my blog, I think I may), the best thing you can do for you audience is treat them like they’re intelligent. So why aren’t internet writers treating Sleater-Kinney fans like intelligent human beings? I’m sure they don’t intend to imply that people who dug The Woods are too dumb or small-hearted or small-minded to like 1,000 Years; they’re (the writers, that is) just lazy. It sounds like something you could say, superficially, about Corin Tucker’s new album so lots of people are going to say it. It fills space and will make a certain amount of sense to people who only scan reviews instead of actually reading them (these people are helped greatly by arbitrary letter grades and number scores. Seriously, can you read Pitchfork’s review of 1,000 Years and figure out how the written content of that review translates to the album scoring precisely 6.5 points out of ten? No, you can’t. The people who fucking wrote it can’t but they won’t abandon their stupid number system. That shit drives me nuts), but it might also drive some of those review-scanners away, robbing them of something they might actually enjoy. Which leads me to another problem: no review can tell you whether or not you will like an album. A good review can tell you whether or not you want to hear an album and, being intelligent, you can decide whether or not it’s worth your time to do so. But until the notes hit your ears, you’re not going to know for sure. I was looking forward to the new Blitzen Trapper album and then I heard it and it bored me into a stupor from which I’ve only just now recovered (I think getting pissed about Pitchfork’s stupid number-rating system really shook me from my malaise. So thank you, Pitchfork. I guess).
So while it doesn’t fit the neat cliché of “fans of x will not like y,” I think it’s more honest to say that 1,000 Years is a pretty good album and I think it’s fucking awesome that Corin Tucker is still making music because she is one of the most underrated vocalists of the last several years. So maybe now you can listen to the album and decide for yourself, yeah?