Wednesday, April 20, 2005

burning down the house

Throwing Muses have to be one of the great forgotten bands of our time. The slashing twin guitars of Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly; Leslie Langston's intricately melodic bass playing; the military drumming of Dave Narcizo; all used to depict the "streams-of-consciousness" of a 19 year old housewife, in songs that would just as soon as stroke your face as bite it off.

At times they could seem incredibly claustrophobic and intense, but I've always found them exhilarating to listen to - as the cliché goes, anything can happen and it usually does. The earlier recordings, like "Snail Head" from the "Chains Changed EP" (1987 -re-released on "In A Doghouse" in 1998), mix the art-punk-funk of bands like The Slits with the acid-fried visions of Americana from "Meat Puppets II".

Throwing Muses - Snail Head

When I was in my last year of school I always had to have a C-90 cassette in my possession that had Pixies' "Surfer Rosa" on one side and Throwing Muses' "House Tornado" on the other. Couldn't leave home without it! "House Tornado" from 1988 is still one of my "Top 10" albums and the title really sums it up; as Kristin Hersh said herself, "The idea of the savage housewife is intensely appealing."

Throwing Muses - Mexican Women

Throwing Muses always suffered from the idea that, whereas (for example) Captain Beefheart can be described as a MAD GENIUS, Kristin Hersh got tarred, like so many other challenging female artists, with the KOOKY brush. Even worse, when it was revealed that Kristin Hersh had suffered with "bipolarity" or manic depression from an early age, many critics said, "oh well, that's why her songs are so WEIRD - she wasn't in control", something that Hersh refuted:
It has been suggested that I was insane during the Muses early days, something I have vehemently denied in my effort to prove that this stuff could come out of our girlfriends, our sisters, our mothers. Listening now, I wonder if I was all there, but maybe that was the point. Our girlfriends, sisters and mothers have been known to go elsewhere at times, too.
(from the sleeve notes to "In A Doghouse")

Throwing Muses released their final album in 2003. Kristin Hersh continues to make the good stuff both on her own and with her new band 50 Foot Wave. It took me ages to pick the songs for this post so I'll probably return to Throwing Muses again!
Buy In A Doghouse
Buy House Tornado

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