|Is she smiling at you, or is she just smiling?|
Anyway...this week it's the half sister of one of my first really intense musical crushes, Kristen Hersh and her present project, 50 Foot Wave.
I first became aware of Ms. Hersh through her first project, The Throwing Muses...and I became aware of The Throwing Muses solely because I wanted to do evil, evil things to Tanya Donnelly. Incidentally, this is the one musical crush that had the weirdest arc of all. Back in the day, the Muses were an incredibly accessible group of people; when they toured, they hung with the civilians and didn't get all creepy-weird if you approached them and said hello. This led to one night at Maxwell's in Hoboken where my friend at the time Lorne and I endeavored to score an interview with someone from the band. Not only did we succeed in netting about forty minutes with Dave Narcizio and a few minutes with Kristin, I actually got to stand in front of Tanya, profess my adoration and got a laugh, a hug and a few minutes of genuine warmth.
(Which led to me getting interviews with Tanya both when she fronted Belly and when she struck off on her own, including one in the very cramped storage room of Maxwell's where our knees were touching; an answering machine message she gleefully did with me, chanting 'do it! do it!' when I asked people to leave their message; and always a few moments of conversation whenever I saw her after that....but those are stories for another day)
There are a handful of musicians I met when I was running Sticky Carpet Digest and writing articles for other fanzines and magazines who seemed genuinely interested in connecting with me as more than an opportunity for publicity. The Throwing Muses were prime amongst them.
And I get the sense that Hersh has never lost that desire to connect with people directly I saw in her and her bandmates that one night in Hoboken, which might explain why so much of 50 Foot Wave's backcatalog is available for free here...although given the massive amount of stuff she's giving to you, I encourage you to give her a little something back by visiting her website.
50 Foot Wave is definitely a shout back to that earliest version of the Muses, where Kristin and Tanya were exploring the crossroads where punk and folk met. It's a harsher sound than both the later Muses albums and Hersh's own solo work, with lots of fast guitar strumming and hard drumming--apparently the group was designed as a power trio--all designed to couch Hersh's ambivalently sinister lyrics in a dissonant context. It's funny how this latest project of hers, done after she has managed to keep her bipolar disorder under control, is the best musical expression of her bipolarism since those first few EP's put out by the Muses.
And the lyrics to this song represent what kept me a Throwing Muses fan past my lust for Ms. Donnelly. Hersh is really, really good at writing these little portraits that are like rorschach tests for the listeners. In this song, which begins with her waking up to find a lavender stain on her lover's mouth, what does that stain mean--is it evidence of adultery? The aftereffect of strenuous lovemaking? Hersh isn't telling, seemingly throwing contradictory phrases about whores and freedom at us to muddy the waters. But that's her game, and has always been so; to obsfucate what she's really saying because she knows deep down inside that what we think she's saying is much more interesting that what she is telling us.
Apparently, Kristin Hersh is a busy woman these days. In addition to 50 Foot Wave, she's continuing to write essays, is working on new songs for a solo project....and has reunited with Dave Narcizio to create a massive new, listener-funded Throwing Muses album that is rumored to have 38 (!) songs on it. Try to keep up with her at her website; the link is above.
And here's a video from a live performance....
By the way---for those of you who missed out, I guested last weekend on Maurice Bursztynski's excellent podcast Love That Album. This biweekly podcast sees Maurice, usually with a guest host, discuss and dissect one album that one or both of them like on a song-by-song basis. The episode I was on tackled one of my favorite musicians, Ben Folds, and put forth the idea that his album Songs For Silverman is the first proactive breakup album, seeing as how it was released before the break-up actually happened. Plus we talk about the cult of Fiona Apple, the general sadness of Art Aleakis, 're-recording' albums, and more. Check out the episode on his website...and while you're there, check out his other episodes because all of them are fun and a half, and come highly recommended.