March 22, 2003

Throwing Muses 'Throwing Muses'

This is the comeback record that I've wanted to hear. How rare it is, indeed, for a band to come back after a long-dormant state and sound like a brand new band! Kristin Hersh and company have returned to form in the best of ways, with no hint of the so-so records that dominated their last few years. Instead of the glossed-over sounds of University or the forced rawness of Red Heaven, Throwing Muses is the sound of a band with nothing to prove to anyone.

Of course, it is important to note that this record was "recorded over three weekends in November 2001." I think that is what makes Throwing Muses' return so exciting and so fresh. It's also worth noting that this self-titled record sounds more like the Throwing Muses circa their first self-titled record. "Mercury" kicks off their return, and is a hard and fast kick to the intellectual nuts. If you're not going "!" after first listen, then you've never really knew what the Muses were capable of. That mellowing-out that occured with Sire certainly seems to be a thing of the past; Throwing Muses sounds as if Hersh and crew have spent a lot of time listening to House Tornado and In A Doghouse and suddenly remembered what made them great!

Of course, if you listen, you'll hear another nice little thing...Tanya "Prodigal Muse" Donelly! Yes, Miss Belly has returned to the fold, and although she's not providing more than backing vocals, it's nice--VERY nice--to hear the two of them together. I've always thought that Donelly was the yang to Kristin's yin--their voices intertwine in a very special way--and her leaving made the Muses lose a little something. (Maybe on the next record she'll have more of a presence?) If Throwing Muses has a flaw, it's that a little editing might not have done too much damage. Some songs seem to go on a minute or two more than they should, and while no song is bad, it just rambles a bit here and there in the middle. It's okay, though; a little too much Muses is certainly better than none at all! Songs like "Portia", "SolarDip" and the closing one-two punch of "Flying" are simply smoking in a way that they NEVER were before.

When Hersh sings "I am unshaken" in "Portia," she speaks a truth about Throwing Muses' return. They sound like they never left--and, better still, like their lesser albums never happened! Hersh's voice is in fine form, and she sounds stronger and tougher than ever--it's been a long, long time since she's really sung full-out rock songs, and it's obvious that she's still got it. (Guess all those quiet solo records really built up her desire to just belt 'em out.) It's good to have them back. Hersh proves herself, even though she had nothing to prove; it's good to know that a hero of mine from a long time ago still has it. Welcome back, guys!

--Joseph Kyle

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