The Corin Tucker Band has all the elements of a great album on “Kill My Blues,” but the pieces aren’t always put together well, which leaves a frustrating aftertaste of unfulfilled potential.
Singer-guitarist Tucker was a founding member of ‘90s riot grrrl band Sleater-Kinney, and those grunge-adjacent, near-punk roots kick around in the instrumentation of “Kill My Blues,” as in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” riff on the track “Constance.”
However, nothing is more vital to “Kill My Blues” than Tucker’s voice. She can go to Patti-Smith-like levels of intensity, her nervous energy sometimes parallel to everyone from predecessors like Christina Amphlett (in her early Divinyls days) to contemporaries such as Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre) to successors like Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Tucker’s voice may tremble from the force of emotion, but it never breaks.
“Kill My Blues” clicks repeatedly, demanding respect in the careening disillusionment of “Groundhog Day,” the accessible mania of “I Don’t Wanna Go” and the raw urgency of “Neskowin,” about a teenager who “came along to play” on a family vacation at the beach.
The sound is decidedly (and refreshingly) unpolished, yet also not affectedly tattered. And the capable band handles the offbeat twists, changing up tempos and rambling along with the mercurial singer, matching her melodic wails with nonformulaic buzz and punch.
Trouble is, there’s too much attention to the band when “Kill My Blues” should be more focused on Tucker. Gratuitous binges of psychedelic or jammy stretches crop up and dilute the impact of vibrant vibes. Plus there are ballads (or relative ballads) that are little more than fragmented jumbles, with or without Tucker at the microphone.
So despite the recurrently robust power of “Kill My Blues,” there’s a nagging bug in the production that doesn’t feel quite right. It’s obvious the band can do better.
Rating: 3 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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