Posts Tagged ‘purgatory/paradise’

Throwing Muses at Big Takeover

P/P arrived in 2013 as a book containing lyrics, artwork, and downloads, but here it is a 32 song double LP, vinyl manifesto. After 2003, Kristin Hersh released her solo albums and some 50 Foot Wave material, but it took a decade to get this fractured and sprawling Throwing Muses epic into shape. There’s a method to this madness, as the “songs” are actually bits and pieces, scattered like memory, loss, hope, and joy across a hardwood floor of emotions. It’s as if the band smashed everything they’ve ever done and are now picking up the pieces, and we’ve been challenged to join them in their quest for a new muse.

[Print edition]

Throwing Muses at Get It On Vinyl

I was not thrilled to have a Throwing Muses album passed my way to review. At best Throwing Muses was a lingering memory for me, and at worst, I might have had them confused with another band altogether. I wasn’t a Throwing Muses fan when they were in their peak. It’s not that I didn’t like alternative or indie rock. I have always listened to Dinosaur Jr., R.E.M., the Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, etc… The throwing muses were just never on my radar. They always struck me as a band my sister would be into. You see, the Throwing Muses have been around since the mid 80’s. They were never a hugely commercial band, but they had some street credibility. They were a college rock band through and through. They made smart music, which as a thirteen year old boy, was just not my thing.

When I put Throwing Muses’ new LP, Purgatory/ Paradise on my turntable, I was pleasantly surprised. Nine records and close to twenty years into their careers, the Throwing Muses still seem to be going strong. With this being said, I have to admit that Purgatory/ Paradise is an intimidating album.Purgatory/ Paradise is a massive two disc set with thirty-two songs. It’s not an album that’s even easily digestible in one sitting. The mood and groves of the album shift from song to song never really letting you drift away from the music. This is a project that demands your time, but it seems to be time well spent.

Lead singer Kristen Hersh has an emotive and distinctive voice. She has a contemplative feel to her singing which is occasionally accented with flares of gravel voiced low key blue eyed soul. The music on Purgatory/ Paradiseranges from the low key indie feel of “Smokey Hands 1,” to the fiery edgy alternative to “Sleepwalking 2,” and finally to the pop oriented like “Cherry Candy 1.” What I find most interesting about this album though is the restraint. The music always feels like it’s pushing towards vaudeville and burlesque stage music, but it never quite makes it there. It’s a recurring undertone throughout the music, and frankly, it’s that undertone coupled with the restraint from going full on that really makes this an interesting album. I could see Purgatory/ Paradise interesting fans of Tom Waits to fans of the Pixies for different reasons.

Purgatory/ Paradise comes as a two disc set housed in a thick gatefold cover. You can pick up your vinyl copy from or from your local record retailer.



Throwing Muses at Raised by Gypsies

At first, I was hesitant as to whether or not I wanted to review this cassette without the book that was released with it.   Let me jump back in time about a year, as this was released as a CD or digital or whatever in November of last year.   My plan was to get the CD/book combo for Christmas or my birthday and yet somehow that never materialized.   Here we are a year later and I still don’t have the book, sure, but I also don’t have any regrets about not getting the CD because now I have the cassette, which is how I feel Throwing Muses should be heard.

I love Throwing Muses because they were such an essential part of my musical upbringing, as were their sort of spin off bands like The Breeders and Belly.    And it’s funny because it took me some time after the fact to realize that all of these bands were related because back in the 1990’s I never really thought of bands as much about sharing members and just as their own little entities.    So to put this all together in the early ’00’s as I did was just like wow… like when I started putting together the pieces of Mother Love Bone, you know?

Throwing Muses will remain one of my biggest influences as a fan of music.   I tend to complain about the balance in music between male and female bands as there are all these dudes for me to compare music with when growing up but yet not as many noted women.   Even somebody like Veruca Salt doesn’t seem as big as maybe 90% of the male fronted bands I could site as comparisons when looking back, but Throwing Muses is just one of those defining bands.

Words may not ever be able to accurately portray how much Throwing Muses means to me as a band and piece of my childhood but these new songs are just excellent and I’m glad that they found their way to cassette because that’s just always how I will prefer to listen to Throwing Muses.   Kristin Hersh will forever remain one of my personal heroes and this music should not be missed on cassette.    Expect a book review eventually as well.


Throwing Muses at See Sound

If ever an album was appropriate to its band’s name it’s this, muses thrown out over 32 tracks , traversing their very own “Inferno”.

There are many short tracks with fully formed pin-sharp alt rock like Morning Birds 1 (with it’s fantastic and fearsome opening minute it has an urgency that gives no time for explanation, the second half is more indie pop, the title as with most sounds like the title given to abstract art, they may or may not help understanding of the songs). The beautiful cover art also suggests an interest in, and influence of, abstraction. This is a band flexing their muscles, showing that they can exist at the plateaux of their indie peak with little need to explain, this is muscular Pop. Sunray Venus, for example, sprawls because it can, it has many facets. Rather than be to in debt to a jewellers design, some songs are imperfect crystals as nature intended but none the less beautiful for it. It’s something like the aural equivalent of an art exhibition, minor sketches follow large canvasses, the short fragments show the creative process and allow an idea not to be lost. Perhaps they show the creative crossroads at which an idea is discarded or makes it’s way to use in a full length song.

The many short tracks may prompt skipping in the casual listener but luckily there are a multitude of 3 minute plus gems to keep everyone happy. There is something cinematic about the flow of the tracks, short or long they seem to act like scenes, driving a narrative unknown to the listener. Sunray Venus is the first huge track, chugging beat, Cure semi-acoustic guitar and a scalpel sharp vocal. Freesia is dark Country Rock, riding out of the dust storm on a rough picked twang, disappearing off again into a heat haze. Morning Birds 2 is shortish and most like an old 80 s college indie, taking a step further with a Verve style string section. Lazy eye is exceptional – a shadowy drama lead in by a shimmering guitar, the lead vocal and vocal harmonies on the chorus taking flight.

When they rock they are imperious – look no further than the dark streets of Milan, with it’s acoustic verse and electric pre chorus riff, before it soars in said chorus. There’s a certain timelessness overall, this is an album that deserves a place in any collection of melodic alternative rock from the lates 60’s to now. It certifies that Throwing Muses are every bit as good as R.E.M. or the Pixies when they can be bothered.


Throwing Muses at Big Takeover

A whole year after its initial release as book and CD, Throwing Muses’ epic ninth studio album finally sees a proper vinyl release.

While not as extensively packaged as the CD, this LP version of Purgatory/Paradiseserves as an exquisite companion to it for those who prefer their music on 12” plastic rather than compact discs. Musically, it’s a monumental work of art.Kristin Hersh’s sandpaper-y sweet vocals unfold visceral memories of betrayal and aggravation, perfectly complimenting her sneering guitar tone while bassist Bernard Georges and drummer David Narcizo remain obstructively complimentary, allowing her songs the necessary room to breathe. Minute-long tracks carry the captivating quality of the longer compositions, bending time so that their short length goes completely unnoticed. But, you know this already because you bought it when it came out last year, right?

The multiple layers of Purgatory/Paradise demand multiple listens in multiple formats – it’s just that massive. Experience it on vinyl and hear all the passionate, anguished beauty of Throwing Muses in a different light.


Throwing Muses at Buzz Magazine

One of the leading female-fronted indie bands of the 80s and 90s, Throwing Muses continue to grow from strength to strength with every release. The 2003 reunion of the band saw Kristin Hersh collaborate once more with stepsister and ex-Breeders front woman Tanya Donnelly – a match made in pitch perfect paradise. Modern-day poet Hersh yet again caresses your soul with her unique blend of melancholic yet impassioned harmonies. You won’t hear another band like this all year, perhaps all decade.


Throwing Muses at BEAT

Since forming in Rhode Island in 1980-whatever Throwing Muses have been alt rock royalty and their uncompromising frontwoman/leader Kristin Hersh has been an indie rock legend setting the world to rights ever since.
It’s almost impossible (and probably kind of offensive) to condence Hersh and Throwing Muses complicated history into a brief introductory paragraph. That said, in a nutshell, it goes something like…

At 16 Kristin was involved in a car accident that dramatically changed how she hears music (she describes it as being like ‘a kind of possession’), she formed Throwing Muses (originally Kristen Hersh and the Muses) with her step-sister Tanya Donnelly, they (along with the rest of the band Elaine Adamedes and drummer Becca Blumen who were later replaced by Leslie Langston and David Narcizo) released their first EP in 1984, subsequently signed to 4AD records and toured with their friends the Pixies.
Kristin has (pretty openly and publicly) dealt with at different times being diagnosed with schizophrenia and later bipolar disorder. You can read about some of this in Kristin’s book Rat Girl, which is essential reading, kind of like the alt rock version of Ghost World or a way gnarlier Lena Dunham. The Muses have had a rocky time negotiating their fierce uncompromising creativety within the music business, at times down right rebelling against their former long-time label Warner and according to Hersh being left pretty much flat broke.

Throwing Muses have just been out on the road proving they’re still a killer force live and have finally released an epic new album Purgatory/Paradise, a 32-track record accompanied by a 64 page book of essays. As far as I’m concerned Throwing Muses is Kristin Hersh and Kristin Hersh is Throwing Muses, so when the Muses came to town I went to have a chat with her about their latest record and being shitty…

Click through for the interview.


Throwing Muses at Drowned in Sound

We spoke to Throwing Muses, Fifty Foot Wave and solo artist Kristin Hersh across the ether of the internet last week. Having just arrived home in New Orleans, she was fresh from a series of UK shows which saw the Throwing Muses trinity (Hersh, Tanya Donnelly, Dave Narcizo) reunited and touring Purgatory/Paradise. Released late last year, this was their first new studio album in 10 years: both a wonderful, skittering, haze of the Muses fuzzy-inspirational music and a flat-out beautiful object as well, with an accompanying book of words from Hersh and illustrations from Narcizo.

Despite the limitations of the email interview format, a series of call-and-response communications that can sometimes frustrate, Hersh’s responses came through in the same engaged, lucid and upfront voice that can be heard in her highly entertaining twitter feed, a fascinating contrast to the oblique mystery of her lyrics. Although battling jetlag (both her own and her iPad’s at one point), perhaps the common thread here is the honesty and lack-of-rockist-bullshit that characterises her music and the thoughtful answers which she nevertheless was able to provide.

Click through to read the interview.


Throwing Muses at Collapse Board

I listened to nothing but the new Throwing Muses LP for one week in my car. Maybe you’ve heard it already – but even if you have, I’ve no doubt that you’re clamoring for my thoughts on it.

Hold up a minute. A crucial point first.

We load our senses with memories. One smell or sound can trigger some other thought that’s completely tangential. And music, which seeps into so many nooks and crannies of day-to-day living, mingles with a buncha people and places in our heads. You know how it is – a friend or sibling loves this one album to death and plays it over and over and over, until he tires of it and stops. Few years later, a stray song pops up on the radio, and you think of him. I use the male pronoun, because my brother adored Steely Dan when we were in high school and would play Katy Lied or The Royal Scam in the car any chance he could. (“Yeah, I’m doing this,” he’d say, and soon came “Chain Lightning” or “Kid Charlemagne”.)

This is crucial, you understand, because the memories we tie to a thing do color our judgment. Critics, of course, tend to eschew these tangents for the sake of that bastard prince Objectivity and its almighty father Authority. However, as we all know, I have no authority whatsoever – and so, rather than the usual track-by-track analysis and retrospective gazing for Purgatory / Paradise, I’ve decided to list the thoughts that have been floating around all week. The original plan was one for each track – but that’d equal 32 bullets, and the Twitter zombies don’t have time for that. We’ll see.

Click through for the rest!


Throwing Muses at Louder Than War

The release of last year’s ninth Throwing Muses album, Purgatory/ Paradise after a ten hiatus proved that they’ve lost none of their bite. It was a visceral meandering return to form for the three piece that revels in its fractured nature and with a personal honesty synonymous with Kristen Hersh’s writing. Along for the ride on this UK tour is former muse and step-sister, Tanya Donelly. Sorely missed from the equation since her split from the band back in 1991, it seems the fans are frothing at the mouth at the thought of seeing her return, even as a guest.

It seems Tanya is one of those who never ages. With her trademark blonde bob and enormous smile, she exudes a fun, playful nature that is so evident in her work. Taking the stage with her band we are treated to a wondrous set in which she performs songs from her time with the Muses, her solo career and her other former band, Belly.

Opening with tracks from her Swan Song Series Vol 1, the lively folkiness of Mass Ave and the more subdued, Meteor Shower showcase her astounding vocal talents to great effect. Assisted by two guitarists (acoustic and electric) and a cellist, she performed the Belly tracks Low Red Moon and Dusted to remind us how good a song writer she is. She’s joined onstage by Bristol-based musician Laura Kidd  (She Makes War) for renditions of Slow Dog and Not Too Soon which are met with joyous rapture for a pairing that makes perfect sense.

What this sold out show proves is that the Muses audience is as eager and obsessed as they ever were. Much of the first part of the set consists of songs from the new album, and raucous beautiful noise they are too. From the drum heavy pounding of opener, Sunray Venus to the bass rumbling, Static, this is the most intense version of the band I’ve ever seen. Although the new songs aren’t as accessible and poppy as those from The Real Ramona or Red Heaven, the consummate song writing is as solid as ever. The emotional intensity of Hersh’s lyrics and delivery cuts to the core, making it impossible not to ‘feel’ them.

The highlight tonight is of course when Tanya returns to the stage for the second half of the set. Older songs like You Cage and Devil’s Roof remind us how well their voices work together. During Green, Tanya’s microphone seems to malfunction but about three quarters of the way through fires up again to a great cheer from the crowd.

The exceptional Say Goodbye closes the set before the encore of  Shark and Pearl leave us feeling cleansed, fully purged of all negative energy and spiritually lifted thanks to the cathartic Throwing Muses.