The Corin Tucker Band
Tuesday, October 26
Better than: Quasi at SXSW 2010
Watching the Corin Tucker Band at the Bowery Ballroom is akin to seeing a favorite essayist discuss a novel (or vice versa): this may not be the body of work you want to hear this seminal figure address, but this is the only person who owns the voice that changed your life, so you make do. Gonna make an educated guess that the audience comprised of mostly women (many bespectacled), the sensitive men who love them, and Lee Ranaldo and his wife felt the same way, all here because Corin Tucker spent more than a decade as the front-lung of riot-lady rock monolith Sleater-Kinney. And while her former Ess-Kay partners, guitar goddess Carrie Brownstein and percussion monster Janet Weiss, have spent the last four years dabbling in art-comedy skits, receiving honorary writing laurels, or hammering snares for Stephen Malkmus and Quasi, this one of the went off to be a mom.
Let me repeat: a mom. This “mom” role is the publicly cited reason that Sleater-Kinney went on indefinite hiatus four years ago, and it’s also very disorienting for young women who’ve looked to Sleater-Kinney for cues on how to wear a skirt, yet aspire to be Thurston Moore, not Kim Gordon. And so this was the first real chance to inspect Tucker in person after she’d been sequestered for four years potty-training, piling together peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, devouring Twilight (?), and working on “web development and marketing and training video for a medical devices company” (!). (Her dad owns the company, but still.) Did civilian life shrink her? Has motherhood made her daft? Is the dream dead?
Nope. Just like in Tucker’s Sleater-Kinney days, it takes two warm-up songs before she seems comfortable enough to let that chainsaw vibrato rip. Tonight, the first time we hear that unmistakably Corin vocal fluctuation is during 1000 Miles‘ reflecting-glass soliloquy “Handed Love,” when she turns “aches” turns into “Ay-Yakes!” And from then on, there is the Corin Tucker we remember, slightly more reserved, but still focused, hopping, wailing. There’s inconsequential banter (Her: “How are you?”; an invisible one of us: “We’re happy to see you!”), echoes of her former dominance (“It’s Always Summer” is the closest thing we’ll get to “One More Hour” for some time), and enough caterwauling to blow your hair back (especially during “Doubt”). There’re also two cover songs (The Au Pairs’ “It’s Obvious” and Pylon’s “Cool”), both of which she howls somehow delicately in a blue long-sleeved dress and ankle-high boots.
That dress. At one point, a shouting audience member asks where Tucker got it, and she attempts to explain how there’s a vintage operation in Portland and it’s run by one woman and she had a crazy sale and then realizes this response is getting too involved for the circumstances and then just clarifies, “I got it at Yo Vintage.” It’s the only moment you can actually tell that Tucker’s days are devoted to politely longwinded explanations for little people. And in that second, you can actually see that being a mom isn’t only, well, evolution, but can actually be a good look.
Critical Bias: Sleater-Kinney saved my life.
Unattributed quote: “Sweet Bulbs are on Team Weingarten!”
Random Notebook Dump: Really hope that wasn’t Kathleen Hanna I accidentally ran into downstairs.
Thrift Store Coats
Half a World Away
It’s Always Summer
It’s Obvious [The Au Pairs]
Cool [Pylon cover]