Picks and Pans Review: Life in Exile After Abdication

updated 09/25/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/25/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Maureen Tucker

Because of this record, a 44-year-old mother of five now lacks a job. But it couldn't be any other way.

When Tucker asked her bosses at a Georgia Wal-Mart discount store warehouse for a leave of absence so she could tour with Lou Reed and promote her new rock album, they turned her down and she had to quit. Maybe they just didn't believe she was telling the truth. Then again, a lot of people won't believe their ears when they hear the psychedelic guitar riffs and frenetic vocals of this middle-aged, divorced, formerly working mom.

Despite her years as a keypunch operator, Tucker didn't exactly come out of nowhere. As one of the first female rock drummers, she kept the beat for the Velvet Underground, then quietly drifted off into suburbia when the band broke up in 1970. Concurrent with a 1980s Velvet Underground revival, Tucker learned guitar and surfaced again with two rough-hewn releases. Life in Exile After Abdication, her more polished third independent album, holds the potential to please listeners at opposite ends of the rock music spectrum.

Fans of hip art rock will turn on to the simmering guitar accompaniment by Lou Reed and members of Sonic Youth. Art history mavens will take interest in "Andy," a tribute to Warhol, who served as patron to the Velvet Underground.

Listeners who hate all that medium-highbrow stuff will like the album for other reasons. Tucker's uncertain, off-key voice, delivering lyrics about middle-class life, makes her sound as familiar as the woman next door. She kicks off the album's opening song, "Hey, Mersh!" with the exclamation, "Let's go to the mall!"

Then she cuts into "Spam Again," a vindictive diatribe against the mistreatment of blue-collar workers, with a few barbs aimed at Wal-Mart chairman Sam Walton: "Me and you will stay so poor/ He'll get richer for sure."

Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller, had enough faith in Tucker's talents to help finance this effort. He's not going to turn any aging working women into MTV rock starlets, but this album is a neat trick nonetheless. (50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Watts)

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