Moe Tucker

I Feel So Far Away: Anthology 1974-1998

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Following the Velvet Underground's slow fizzle into non-existence in the early '70s, drummer Moe Tucker's life shifted dramatically. Setting down music for a time, Tucker struggled with raising kids as a single mom, relocating to Arizona and then again to Georgia, where she would spend her days working at Wal-Mart to support her family. A stark contrast to being the driving force in one of the most important bands in the history of rock & roll, but throughout the '80s and '90s, she would drift between these two very different worlds constantly. Producing and self-releasing ramshackle home-recorded albums, jamming with members of the Sun City Girls and continuing to tour and write solo material into the new millennium, Tucker's primitive rhythms and shakily transcendent sonic stamp touched everything she worked on. I Feel So Far Away does an incredible job of capturing this hard-to-pin-down sound, a child-like naivete tempered with the darkness of street life, or darker still, the day-to-day exhaustion of chasing the crumbling American dream. Kicking off with tracks from 1981's brilliantly raw Playin' Possum, the collection highlights Tucker as a multi-instrumentalist. Like many multi-faceted players, she approaches all instruments in the same way she does the drums. The playing is a-technical, just on the brink of a-musical. Far-off guitars and glibly spoken/sung vocals coasting over creaky take on early rock & roll numbers by Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley. These songs are an even better articulation of where twee (and subsequently indie rock) was born than the Velvet Underground. Tucker wasn't averse to revisiting the Velvets legacy, though. Many solo records would find her reworking songs from the bands' back catalog, including highlights like "Heroin," "Pale Blue Eyes," and a goofy duet with Jonathan Richman on "I'm Stickin' with You" from 1974. Songs from her 1989 release, Life in Exile After Abdication, saw her collaborating with members of Sonic Youth and Half Japanese as well as former cohort Lou Reed. Songs included from this set include spirited ragers like "Hey Mersh!" as well as tough ruminations on her days working for minium wage at Wal-Mart on the darkly comical "Spam Again." The 30-plus songs have a broad range, from tender reminiscence of lost friends on "Andy" and "Last Night I Said Goodbye to My Friend" to loose and fun rock & roll, but every song holds onto the same baseline feeling. Simple without being innocent, the straightforwardness of these songs doesn't immediately reveal their depth, but an almost instinctual emotional force guides them all, and thusly coheres them. All told, I Feel So Far Away shines light on Tucker's obscured solo career as the most direct continuance of the sound she helped build in the Velvet Underground. While her bandmates would go down many different roads with widely variant results, Tucker's sounds retained the ragged beauty and youthful sense of possibility that were at the heart of the VU, and rock & roll in general.