Rock & roll is supposed to be a populist medium that provides a musical voice for anyone with the wherewithal to pick up an electric guitar and learn three chords. So how come the majority of its practitioners are physically and/or emotionally adolescent males who can't think of anything better do to than complain about girls? Maureen Tucker blazed many trails in the 1960s as the drummer with the Velvet Underground, but by the 1980s she was a single mother in her mid-forties, raising a family in Georgia and supporting herself with a day job at Wal-Mart. That hardly sounds like the bio of a typical alternative rock musician, but it also means she had a lot more to say about life and where it can take you than most people who pop up on the CMJ charts, and in 1989 she poured a bunch of her life experiences into the album Life in Exile After Abdication. While a number of Tucker's better-known friends stopped by to help her out on these sessions -- including Lou Reed, Sonic Youth, Jad Fair, and Daniel Johnston -- this album bears the unmistakable stamp of Moe's personality from start to finish, with songs about the joys of payday, the agonies and responsibilities of work, the loss of old friends, and the liberating power of stripped-down rock & roll. Tucker's songs are smart without the slightest hint of pretension, and discuss the realities of working-class life in a way you usually have to turn to country music to hear on record (punk rock may have made it fashionable to sing about the inequities of capitalism, but no one wrote about the misery of working for Sam Walton like Tucker did on "Spam Again"). And while her plain, homey voice makes her sometimes sound like the lady down the street, she can also shout with authority and enthusiasm, and she can still beat a drum kit like no one else (she's pretty good with a guitar, too). If you ask yourself, "What does a middle-aged woman know about rock & roll?" Life in Exile After Abdication answers, "In Maureen Tucker's case, more than most 20-year-old boys will ever know." It's an album that proves just how much rock & roll can say about life as a grown-up in the real world.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming