The overworked production and stodgy, overly polite songwriting that made Corin Tucker Band’s 1,000 Years such a disappointing debut have been cast aside on Kill My Blues. At turns ferocious and swaggering, the album fully establishes CTB as something more than just a side project to pass the time until Sleater-Kinney gets back together. The arrangements are organic and lived in, and the distinct influences of each member of the band figure prominently in the album’s overall style, making it far more than just a showcase for Tucker.
That’s not to say Tucker isn’t a captivating frontwoman. The songs draw heavily from her early riot-grrrl days, and she unleashes her trademark yelp on standout tracks like “Neskowin” and “No Bad News Tonight,” both of which teem with ragged, frayed-nerve energy. It’s a dramatic reversal from the low-key, coffeehouse-brewed performances on 1,000 Years, and she’s fierce and confrontational on the title track, with its sinewy rhythm section, and the blistering, punk-inspired “I Don’t Wanna Go.” Tucker’s at her best when she commands attention, and the songs on Kill My Blues take full advantage of her charisma and brute force.
Tucker wails, “What’s up, y’all?/I thought we had a plan,” with a real sense of indignation on the brilliant lead single “Groundhog Day,” a call to arms for contemporary feminists that’s reminiscent of her most progressive work with Sleater-Kinney. But the song’s lo-fi rock arrangement, clipped electric-guitar playing, and strong pop hook also bear the influence of guitarist Mike Clark’s time in Stephen Malkmus’s backing band, the Jicks. Both “Joey” and “Outgoing Message” have a similar style, one that imagines what more muscular versions of the songs on Malkmus’s Real Emotional Trash might sound like.
Tracks like “Neskowin” and “Summer Jams” surprise most for their prominent rhythm sections, and it’s this sense of movement that most strongly reflects percussionist Sara Lund’s work with Hungry Ghost, which incorporated the occasional forward-thinking dance beat into its indie-rock. To that end, Kill My Blues plays as a truly collaborative effort, and CTB sounds like they’re developing into a band with a distinct aesthetic that gives Tucker new ways to channel her riot-grrrl rage.