The Rat Girl Is Back In Town

Of all life’s little pleasures, coming across a band you’ve not listened to in years and remembering how great they are must rank up there with finding a nice warm cup of tea next to your chair you didn’t know you had (the tea, not the chair). Whilst regular readers – all three of you – know I harp on about this kind of thing rather a lot, but this is my blog, and at my age and infirmity one is allowed a touch of leniency.

Today’s remembered pleasure is Throwing Muses. 4AD, the genius record label that was home to Cocteau Twins, signed two US bands in 1986 who’d been touring together. The first was The Pixies (who I am assuming you know about), and the other was Throwing Muses. The latter were seen as the odder band, despite Frank Black’s propensity for writing biblically odd songs then screaming like a banshee that’d trod on a nail all over them. But looking back now, and listening to a song like “Mania”, you can see exactly why.

For there is nothing that can quite prepare you for the bizarre world of the Muses. There’s Kristin Hersh’s torrid, spiralling singing style, halfway between an Appalachian drunkard and a secure hospital inmate; there’s the swirling, queasy music, with abrupt time signature changes that disorient you and leave you guessing what the hell is going to happen next. Even after the tenth listen. With lyrics often focussing on her own mental health issues1, underscored with a brutal and frank intelligence, Throwing Muses were never going to be an easy sell, and were often not exactly easy listening. But when they clicked – from earlier tracks like “Mania” and “Dizzy” through to more accessible later songs such as “Shark” and “Bright Yellow Gun” – the band were utterly thrilling.

Funnily enough, Kristin Hersh’s just released a memoir, available from here, entitled “Rat Girl”:

Go and listen and explore then get something from Amazon’s Throwing Muses Store. A great band.

On another note, I realised I’ve not posted any new music in a bit. Let’s see what we can do about that, eh?

1 Kristen was mentally ill for a long period, and was fully and horribly aware of it. To say the music was a catharsis for her is understating it somewhat; she described how songs came to her and obsessed her to the point that she could not function until she’d recorded the song, as though they were living entities. I recall reading once that she had a brain tumour but I can’t find any evidence of this; maybe I ought to read the book sometime. This is difficult to put into words that make any kind of sense, but I’d rather this music than any number of “I’m mental, me” whining attention-seeking irritants. Thankfully she is in a much better state these days.

MP3: Mania by Throwing Muses

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