May 04, 2004

50 Foot Wave

Wow! Kristin Hersh decided she was a punk rocker again, and guess what? Instead of falling into the traps that aging musicians make when they go for making a more ‘youthful’ sound, 50 Foot Wave is doing everything right. Kristin always was a bit punky, of course; so she’s not exactly doing anything new. Think I’m kidding? Don’t let all of her singer-songwriter albums fool you—go find Throwing Muses’ debut album, and you’ll realize that Kristin’s come a long way, baby. Hersh’s desire is now to rock, play live, and tour like hell, releasing raw records like 50 Foot Wave every few months. Nothing wrong with that!

Just in case you didn’t know, 50 Foot Wave is her new band, formed with latter-day Throwing Muses bass player Bernard Georges and drummer Rob Ahlers (of Chalk Farm). I never thought the day would come when Hersh would get harsh and abrasive with her music again—after all, the Pixies were the male version of the Muses—but she’s done it. Damn, she’s done it. The music here is rough, raw and in-your-face punk rock—REAL punk rock. This could have been a record on Epitaph ten years ago, five years ago, and if they were to release it today, the label would be all the better for it.

These six songs go by real fast. They’re crunchy and tough, but all have that weirdness that Hersh has always specialized in. Last year’s Throwing Muses record was nowhere near this good, and that record was excellent. Musically, the songs remind me of the better parts of House Tornado and Surfer Rosa combined. Every song has a really tough guitar riff—check out the bad-ass intro to “Long Painting,” which sounds like a Bad Religion part that then turns into the Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” And her yelling has never sounded sweeter, too. Not that there’s any of that ‘sensitive’ crap on here, either, but songs like “Bug” and “Lavender” all sound sweet.

I’m just sitting here, open-mouthed at how…awesome…50 Foot Wave is. This is the surprise record of the year, easily. Listen in awe, and get your ass kicked by one of the sweetest, nicest songwriters out there today.

PS if you think I’m being patronizing about the whole ‘tough’ thing, you’re in for a musical ass-kicking. (Besides, I think you need it.)

--Joseph Kyle

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