LIKE "MOM HAIR" and "mom sweater," "mom rock" is a derisive term with undertones of panic. That haircut is dorky, and oh my god I don't want to turn into my mother. With their new album Kill My Blues, the Corin Tucker Band continues to redefine mom rock, from "music made by feathery-haired men whom middle-aged women inexplicably find attractive" to serious music made by working moms themselves. Kill My Blues is tough, it's fun, it's focused, and it's rock 'n' roll in the truest sense—sometimes you go onstage covered in someone else's puke.
This is not to suggest that every song on Kill My Blues is about motherhood, or that being a parent is the band's only touchstone. But frontwoman Corin Tucker and drummer Sara Lund are working mothers—they took their kids on tour for 2010's 1,000 Years, where a bout with stomach flu saw Lund cleaning up toddler puke moments before taking the stage. "That's the unglamorous reality of parenting," says Tucker over lunch at Tabor Tavern. "It's a super demanding job. But it's also deeply rewarding in a way you can't really imagine."
It might seem retrograde to focus on the fact that Tucker is a mom as well as a musician, but Kill My Blues arrives in a cultural climate that schizophrenically insists women should prioritize both career and family, without offering any real answers as to how to do that. In this context, Tucker singing about how she's returned to her work after taking some time off to raise her kids feels just as revolutionary as anything she ever wrote with Heavens to Betsy. (To be fair, when Tucker unleashes her signature belt, she could probably make ordering a Cobb salad sound like a call to arms.)
Just about everything you need to know about Kill Your Blues can be gleaned from the first song. "Groundhog Day" is a wakeup call, for the listener and for Tucker herself. Dubbing herself "Rip Van Winkle in a denim mini-skirt," she explains that she "took some time off to be a mom, have some kids," before lamenting how little progress the women's movement has made in the last 20 years. "Almost equal/almost good enough/almost had a woman go and run the White House.../We fight the same battle/again, again, again/What are we missing?/How can we move on?"
"When I was 20 and coming into the women's movement, we were really focused on protecting Roe v. Wade, and the whole idea of equal pay for equal work," Tucker explains. "Those were two long-term goals for the women's movement, and I'm kind of surprised that 20 years later they're still on the agenda."
Tucker's voice swaggers on "Groundhog Day" like it hasn't since her days as the vocal heavy in Sleater-Kinney. It sets the tone for an album of hooks and bravado, of diversity and range, of thunderous, bass-heavy rock songs, piano-driven blues, and playful, skittering pop numbers. After the stripped-down 1,000 Years, the band's sound is fuller, the hooks catchier, and Tucker's vocals brim with urgency and playfulness.
"Kill My Blues is about thinking about your place in the world, and your frustration with that, and the ups and downs of being 40," says Tucker. "It's sort of a halfway point in your life. A lot of different things come with that—in terms of looking at what really matters, and what you wanna do with your time."
Oh yeah—and you can dance to it. "We have a fitness agenda with this record," jokes Tucker. It's tempting to frame this relatively upbeat, political album as Tucker's "return to her riot grrrl roots," but Kill My Blues is the work of a mature artist, a musician whose career was unabashedly shaped by both motherhood and feminism, and who continues to make music on no one's terms but her own.