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By Nate Jackson
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A lot went into Corin Tucker's recent solo album, 1,000 Years. Like 11 prior years of growth and work with Sleater-Kinney, one of the landmark American bands of the past decade or so, plus further life apart from Sleater-Kinney as a musician and working mother in a collapsing economy. Like drummer Sara Lund, who Tucker calls a "percussion shaman," as well as multi-instrumentalist Seth Lorinczi and artist/singer Julianna Bright, who between them helped add power and heart to such bands as Unwound, the Quails and Circus Lupus. And especially like the chickens—oh, you didn't hear about the chickens? Well, you can hear them cackling deep within certain tracks on 1,000 Years, captured in the background by producer/urban homesteader Lorinczi. Somehow, it fits the mood perfectly—a last happy accident to cap off a band and record that started as a happy accident of its own.
"It really did kind of start from scratch," says Tucker. A collaboration with Lorinczi's Byrds-Dillards-the Band-style country/rock band Blue Giant led to an invite to a 2009 benefit for Portland's much-loved indie bookstore Reading Frenzy, and Tucker sat down and wrote some songs just for that show, ones that would become some of her album's stand-out tracks ("Thrift Store Coats," "1,000 Years"). And at that show, helpful Gorinczi said, "You know, you really should make a record."
"Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh," Tucker recalls saying, laughing at the memory. "I don't knowwwwww. . . ."
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But Lorinczi's encouragement led to a welter of new songs, and last fall, Tucker and her new collaborators released 1,000 Years on Kill Rock Stars. It's a fierce, personal album that steps out of the dense and bottomless sound that was Sleater-Kinney's last release, The Woods, and into bright and brilliantly kaleidoscopic light.
Tucker's band used to cover Queen's "Fat Bottom Girls"; now it's the Undertones, Sheila E., the Au Pairs and Pylon. In the same way, there's punk, pop, post-punk, new wave, dub and full-power rock & roll on 1,000 Years, plus plenty of Woody Guthrie-meets-Billy Bragg (or Exene Cervenka-meets-Chrissie Hynde) righteousness coming together in these electrifying songs. One of her favorite recent records is an African folk release by Rwandan band the Good Ones, something she says her 16-year-old self would never imagine she'd be into. But that's really the cool thing about getting older, she says: "Your mind isn't quite as rigid. It's maybe more open."
She told Spin she was making a "middle-aged mom" record, a quote that now makes her groan ferociously. "Part of me really wants to assert this identity of myself trying to be a parent," she clarifies. "To be who I am and say, 'Listen, I still wanna play music, but it's different now! Can you dig it?'" But the ideas of love and the interconnection between lives—and the struggle to not just take care of yourself but take care of others, too—that seem like a real part of middle-aged momhood give 1,000 Years its passion.
"Our generation was raised in the '80s with this huge consumer culture and these big expectations for American teenagers—what we'd be entitled to as adults. And I think just having that all kind of fall apart . . . it was heartbreaking in some ways!" she says. "But I also think people were able to adapt and say, 'What is really important in my life? What do I absolutely have to hold on to?' I've watched people adapt—make it about getting the kids what they need and what you actually need to do in life to get by.
"A mom friend of mine came to one of our shows," she continues, "and she'd gone to see some other music and said, 'You know, it was just kind of this guy sitting there with a guitar and playing songs quietly, and I had booked a baby sitter and went to all this trouble to go to the show . . . and I was kinda disappointed! If I'm gonna rearrange my whole schedule to go out, I wanna have a show! I wanna dance!' That's something—when people are moved physically to dance, to have a moment of joy. That, I think, is success."
This article appeared in print as "Mom Rock! Ex-Sleater-Kinney member Corin Tucker and her band have the pulse of post-consumer-culture America."