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 http://hhbtm.com/ or from your local record retailer.