Friday, August 21, 2009

Moe Tucker

Rock and Roll is supposed to be trangressive. Its supposed to make you want to take down the man, start a revolution, tell the truth, make everyone uncomfortable with your risque dance moves. Yet often times rock is made by those who don't have much experience with life beyond swiping their parents car for the evening. I suppose that's why discovering the later solo albums by Moe (Maureen) Tucker was such a revelation.
After spending her early twenties making some killer albums with the Velvet Underground, Moe moved to Arizona and then Georgia, had a whole handful of kids, and started working at WalMart. She played for a while in Arizona with Alan Bishop of the Sun City Girls in their band, Paris 1942. Eventually she slowly started writing and recording her own stuff and put out the album Playin Possum. This album features Moe on all instruments and was recorded in her living room dubbed Trash Records.

With the encouragement and help of the band Half Japanese Moe managed to quit the WalMart job and go on tour. In 1989 she put out the album Life in Exile after Abdication which is my personal favorite and includes help from Lou Reed, Jad Fair, Daniel Johnston and members of Sonic Youth. This album feels like everything a rock album should be... the opening of Hey Mersh has killer guitar licks by Thurston Moore and the song chronicles the excitement of going shopping and hanging with Sterling Morrison's wife Martha. The second track has a fun dancey tone with really unfun topics - Spam Again is a mother singing to her kid as she heads out for another day working at WalMart. She's explaining how they need to eat Spam for dinner again because the man who owns the big store needs more money. In the song Work she goes back to this topic with a more pissed tone, faster beats, far out guitar work. The lyrics of Work explain that feeling you get when you look at your meager paycheck and go 'what the hell, this can't be right'. I'm pretty sure everyone whose worked for minimum wage knows this feeling and yet I've never heard a song about it. These songs go back to the begining of rock - when songs chronicled racism and classism, getting away with it because of the sheen of fun beats and sex appeal. Moe Tucker takes this to a new level by being an average looking middle aged woman, and further updates the theme with the modern day extortionists like big business. These are songs that are far more subversive than what a typical twenty something dude with a record deal could come up with. Fully flushing out the album as what we need from rock are a few mellow and introspective tunes like Goodnight, Irene originally recorded by Lead Belly in 1932 and Moe's trippy and girlish cover of The Velvet Underground's Pale Blue Eyes. Although she might have been raising her kids and scraping by down in Georgia in the 80s this album sounds modern even for today. The guitar is killer in a Sonic Youth/Meat Puppets way, the vocals would make any Vivian Girlsesque band jealous, and the upbeat fun percussion reminded me of Moe's friend Jonathan Richman or Moe herself.

Moe Tucker went on to make I Spent A Week There The Other Night in 1991 and Dogs Under Stress in 1994. She toured a whole lot and was joined by Sterling Morrison on guitar, John Sluggett (Half Japanese) on bass, Sonny Vincent on guitar, and former Violent Femme Victor DeLorenzo on drums. Moe still lives with her family in Georgia and has played with and produced a few other bands albums at this point as well as touring with the Velvet Underground reunion tours. Back when she was first playing with them she was known as that androgonous kid sister who played standing up and banged away with mallets or occasionally played on buckets when her drums were stolen. I really encourage everyone to download her solo albums and check out this gift that keeps giving -Moe Tucker. You can download Life in Exile After Abdication free here

1 comment:

Half Japanese said...

Actually, the lead guitar on Hey Mersh! is Lou Reed, not Thurston Moore. Thurston plays on one track only, Chase.