Throwing Muses

Throwing Muses
/4ad; 2003/




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Here we are, back in the early nineties. And that’s good for a change. I don’t care whether the new Throwing Muses is better or not than The Muses’ best effort to date, The Real Ramona. The album is self-titled to point out that the band is newborn again. It sounds fresh and urgent. Why polish the sound and depersonalize it when you like overdrive channels in a power-pop indie group ?

Kristin Hersch releases 2 albums in the same month. Even though I’m a die-hard fan of her acoustic songs (especially Hips & Makers), I’ve been disappointed by her new solo album entitled The Grotto which sounds like a stripped version of Sunny Border Blue, devoid of drums. I like Sunny Border Blue because Kristin Hersch - who was ethereal on the sleeve -seemed to find a Throwing Muses vibration back in it, making quiet songs reminiscent of University in their musical approach but poignantly suffused here and there with the intimate, deeply moving enthrallment which characterizes her two first solo albums (’37 hours’ ‘Candyland’ and the evocation of her custody battle over her child is a fine example).

Finally, she comes to a fork in the road but decides to follow both roads. On the one hand, acoustic songs rejecting drums on her own and on the other hand, grungy power-pop songs with The Throwing Muses. The sound here consists of a wall of overdriven guitar with an angelic voice on top but the angel’s innocence has been altered by the vagaries of life and its voice is raspier and lower than ever, divinely raspy. The only thing which prevents the album from being raw (hear the cymbals sound for instance) is Tanya Donelly’s sweet back vocals even though her contribution is limited to half the songs, sometimes her vocal presence makes Belly’s lively ghost fly over the songs (‘Halfblast’ above all).

The last album (1997 Limbo) was definitely pop-oriented in a great way. Even 1995 University inclined towards pop. In this new album, no song breaks the grungy path they chose to deliver for their comeback. If we have to find the other Muses album which is the closest to this one, it would be their first one Doghouse.

Right from the beginning and the catchy ‘Mercury’, The Throwing Muses uses the quiet verse/agitated chorus tool decorated with nice bridges to deliver their grungy songs. ’Pretty or not’ is similar but its chorus is particularly catchy and grungy. The catchiest moment is definitely the head-bopping ‘Portia’ though. In fact, most of the songs follow the same pattern, be they not as speedy (‘Pandora’s Box’ and its legend theme, ‘Status Quo’ and its distorted arpeggios ending,) or more lively such as ‘Los Flamingos’ or ‘Civil Disobedience’ which is almost garage, definitely lively and contains great lyrics you’re used to with Kristin Hersch: ‘Ignorance is happiness (…) I still love you too much’. The Throwing Muses ends on ‘Flying’ as ‘Mercury’ started it except that its nice bridge is extended to brilliantly end both the song and the album.

The Throwing Muses is not perfect but despite ‘Speed and sleep’ and ‘Epiphany’s hard rock passages which give the impression of having found their shape after the merge of two completely different songs, it is definitely praiseworthy thanks to its freshness, its guitar-driven energy half-way between grunge and indie-pop and to Kristin Hersch who had almost lost the habit to raise her low, somehow raspy charming voice…


/apr 15th 2003/