On Kill My Blues, Corin Tucker does something she didn’t do much of on her first solo album: She rocks out. 2010’s 1,000 Years seemed mostly like an exercise in soft-spoken restraint in order to escape the long shadow cast by her raucous former act, Sleater-Kinney. Although Kill My Blues rarely musters the sonic or ideological fury for which the singer-guitarist’s punk act was known, Tucker seethes a confidence that was missing from her first solo affair.
That allows her to play up her strengths, as she harnesses her klaxon-like set of pipes and Ginsu-sharp guitar work. “Groundhog Day” opens the album with a forceful vocal track and skittish guitars that instantly shake off the doldrums of its predecessor. The galloping drums and slicing guitars in “Neskowin” beg to be cranked to speaker-damaging volumes. Other songs such as “None Like You” and the title track are reminiscent of Sleater-Kinney without resorting to retreading the act’s sound.
Tucker also sidesteps some of 1,000 Years’ more questionable moments and avoids the awkwardly self-conscious piano numbers of her debut. She’s still not afraid to back off the throttle, as “Joey,” a tribute to the late Ramones singer, is delicate but not wimpy. Tucker conveniently backloads the album’s sleepiest cuts, “Outgoing Message” and “Blood, Bones, And Sand,” onto the end of the album, as a subtle—and easily skipped—reminder of her first jaunt into solo territory.
It took Tucker a couple albums to find her footing as a solo artist, but on Kill My Blues she finally achieves equilibrium. Neither bound to her days as a feminist guitar-slinger nor needlessly refuting that heritage, Tucker’s latest work proves there’s a lot of room left to explore between the two extremes.