October 1, 2010

RoBeast Review: Corin Tucker Band - 1000 Years

I accidentally discovered today that Corin Tucker, shorter guitarist/higher vocalist of the currently dormant Sleater-Kinney, has a solo album coming out next Tuesday and will be doing a little a tour this month (thanks to Nobody for giving me a heads up). It's been three or four years since I saw Sleater-Kinney on their farewell tour, and the only peep I've heard from Corin was her backup vocal contribution on Eddie Vedder's Into The Wild soundtrack. I managed to find the album on the NPR website for today's little preview (It's streaming only until 10/5). Billed as the Corin Tucker Band, 1000 Years has "cellos" and "angles" and "Corin." Sorry, I accidentally saw those words on review sites while trying to track down the album. I will try not to let them bias my first impression.

"1,000 Years" - Though there is the presence of a some distorted electric guitar, this has definitely set a more mellow tone than most of Sleater-Kinney's energetic output. Not that it doesn't rock. Drums kick in after a short while and the song moves at a nice pace. Cool bass lines. Corin's not wailing, but she's still putting her unique voice to good use. There's an instrument that comes in at the end that pairs up well with her delivery. It's not a "cello."

"Half A World Away" is also the title of a catchy acoustic Oasis tune. Like that song, this has a weird sounding percussive track, but the guitar is unmistakeably from someone who used to be in Sleater-Kinney. This one picks up a bit too. I think this album is going to be awesome.

(30-second support NPR break)

"It’s Always Summer" - The verse melody reminds me a bit of "Because the Night." More kooky percussion. Oh shit, there's the "cello."

"Handed Love" - If I were to name this tune in only two notes I would have said "This is Beck's 'Where It's At.'" Three notes and I would have been wrong. All of these tracks have had very minimalist beginnings, then picked up a bit, then ended between the 3 and 4 minute mark. This track is no different. What's keeping it fresh though is the instrumentation. This one has an organ and some backmasked guitars. It also has some crazy fucking whammied guitar leads.

"Doubt" - Instead of being a slow burner the 5th song opens with a rock intro that doesn't stop. Wait. It stops 2 minutes in. It's like this album is reading my review. I was just about to complain that the song was teetering on the edge of predictability and it completely stopped, and rebuilt... with FIDDLES?! Yes! To be honest, I'm a little surprised to see that this is the single (or at least, the track being pushed everywhere as the free mp3 download). It's not bad, but I think the last 4 songs have been more interesting.

"Dragon" - Ok, back to acoustic picking. Unlike last week's Jimmy Eat World album, these songs have the ability to be soft without being slow as molasses. You know, two minutes in, and there's been like 5 or 6 different sections and each one has had a different feel. To label this track acoustic after the first 10 second is a disservice. To label this album as mellow is the same.

"Riley" - Piano. A little "Because the Night"-y again. Just a little. And again, after a minute, the feel of the song totally changes. This reminds me of the Eddie Vedder solo album, not just because they're pals and recorded solo albums, but because all the songs are quite short and not immediately reminiscent of their prior band output. The Eddie Vedder solo songs were short, but often felt incomplete, like they just ran out of time or instruments around the studio. The Corin Tucker songs feel very developed and dynamic and prove their point in a short time.

"Pulling Pieces" - Have you noticed that I never talk about the lyrics in my reviews? I didn't notice until I started reading other people's reviews of the last two albums I did for comparison and saw that they all quoted and analyzed lyrics. I just really don't care that much about lyrics. I mean bad lyrics are bad, but if they aren't bad, I tend to not give them too much attention. Melodies are more important me than words when I'm listening. I did however notice that in this song, Corin says "I'm just a shadow of what I used to be." I bet somebody's going to mention that in a review of this album and then say "No, you're not, Corin! You're better than ever!". And if no one does, well then I guess I just did.

"Thrift Store Coats" - Starts with a crazy rhythm sample than changes to simple electric guitar and vocals. Her vocal technique alone is full of wild dynamics. She'll sing soft and low and then in the middle of the line switch to a high cry and back. If this isn't nominated for a Grammy next year, then fuck everyone in the music industry. Ok, fuck them anyway.

"Big Goodbye" - There are some more crazy guitar leads here. I shouldn't be so shocked because Sleater-Kinney had very unorthodox guitar leads. Maybe these are the "angles" people were talking about?

"Miles Away" - There's an annoying distortion/feedback I'm hearing when she peaks on her vocals. It may just be the speakers I'm listening through but I haven't heard it any other time on the album. It reminds me how much I disliked the production on the last Sleater-Kinney album. The songs were good but I hated the crappy recording. I wonder who produced this album because it's been a real pleasure to listen to. Until this track. The string noise as she's changing chords on the guitar very jarring. Maybe it will grow on me as a percussive lo-fi sound, but right now I'm concentrating on first impressions and what stands out. This is the last song, and I think it's the only one that didn't pick up at some point. I guess it makes sense to finish with it because it's a piano ballad. Those little annoyances leave a bad note to end on for me though.

Ah, who am I kidding? That last track isn't enough to ruin the album for me. I really enjoyed it and will undoubtedly be picking it up. And unfortunately it seems that Grammy nomination eligibility resets on October 1st each year. I hope this is not forgotten by 2012.

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