© 2023 WYPR
20th Anniversary Background
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Corin Tucker: '1,000 Years' Of Emotional Longing

Corin Tucker's strong, surging voice was one of the most recognizable sounds of '90s rock — it cut through the careful clatter of Sleater-Kinney as a combination yell, wail and curse. It was a voice that served as its own manifesto, regardless of the lyrics she might be singing. On 1,000 Years, and as leader of The Corin Tucker Band, her singing is frequently more subdued and intimate.

In "Thrift Store Coats," Tucker describes a closed-in world with the minimalist details of a Raymond Carver short story. In "It's Always Summer," the weather reflects the narrator's mood, as technology both helps and adds to the discomfort. She's feeling cold in every sense, talking to a guy who's in a distant climate where "it's always summer." Meanwhile, she feels as though their conversations last "10 years long" and she's always moving the thermostat up another few degrees, as if that might also rekindle the heat in their relationship.

One of the most striking songs on 1,000 Years — the one that connects to the themes Tucker wrestled with most often as part of Sleater-Kinney — is "Doubt." It takes the form of a flying wedge of slashing rock, the guitars and drums creating a headlong clamor that Tucker has to yell over. It wouldn't seem a setting for intimacy, but it is: Tucker is arguing with herself in public, seeming to refer to the relative quietness of the rest of this album when she says she's trying to "break up with the boogie," turning down the sound, trying to live without it. Yet, she concedes, it's when she's lost in the chaos of rock music that she loses her nagging doubts. "Doubt" says that losing herself in music is "the deepest drug, the tallest joy — I forget myself for a while." The song is both sad and extremely exhilarating.

This is an album made by a woman who's put aside the excesses of her youth, and occasionally misses them. Tucker may be content with the domestic life she's created for herself, but I think it's significant that two songs, "It's Always Summer" and another rocker called "Riley," make phone conversations most prominent. It's as though the songwriter is acknowledging that she's no longer living the rock 'n' roll life, and one of her primary means of contact with her previous life is conversations with people she used to hang out with, love or argue with.

An air of heavy, often beautiful melancholy hangs over 1,000 Years. The songs drop hints of poignant discontent — a line about "the zombie wearing Mommy's clothes" here, a line about how "I'm just a shadow of what I used to be" there. There are references to the tough economy and hitting "rock bottom." Taken together, however, the album is the opposite of a downer. Tucker knows how to transmute melancholy into energy, a stubborn belief that what can feel like a trap can also turn into a map to freedom.

Copyright 2022 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.