Kristin Hersh was in high school when she formed Throwing Muses, the first American band signed to 4AD Records. Throwing Muses offered dazzling musical expressions of psychic chaos. Tempo and mood ricocheted wildly. The songs roamed and startled and defied easy categorization. The young band made eight albums in ten years (1986-1996).
By 1993, Hersh found herself hearing songs that, to her chagrin, didn't sound like Throwing Muses songs (Hersh hears a song... and chases it, stalks it, wrestles it to fruition). So she recorded them solo and called the album Hips and Makers. Then something unexpected happened. This small, personal record took off, outselling all of Throwing Muses' albums, and expanding Hersh's fan base at a time when Throwing Muses was ceasing to be economically viable. When Hersh sang in 1989's "Devil's Roof," "I have two heads," she might have been predicting her musical future, as her career would soon require her to move seamlessly between two musical heads: BandKristin and SoloKristin.
As if to complicate matters further, SoloKristin had a few different heads. Hersh released a CD of her favorite Appalachian folksongs (Murder, Misery, and Then Goodnight) in 1998 and some questions about the "schizophrenia" of Hersh's musical oeuvre were answered - "maybe" - by offering fans a taste of the music she'd been raised on. In one song, a young man loves a woman so intensely, he loses his mind and kills her. In another, a new baby brings giddy joy and fantasies of filling his bottle with gin to quiet him.
This musical tradition illustrates the world view that is, perhaps, the one constant through Hersh's multiple incarnations: pure darkness and pure light just don't exist. Love is like a bee sting (Hips and Makers), like kissing gravel (Limbo), like a velvet bed of nails (Sunny Border Blue). Joy and sadness complement and mediate each other. The dazzling disarray of Hersh's early work has given way to mature accomplishment. Her voice has grown deeper and richer and the songs now take flight without leaving artist and listener seasick. The gift that once overwhelmed Hersh, has been harnessed - "with craft, with age" - to magnificent effect.
Finding solo artistry often "insular and a bit of a mindfuck," Hersh formed 50 Foot Wave out of a craving to take time away from her solo career and once again play with a rock band. Designed as a DIY, tour-intensive project, the band prioritized the live experience and literally gave music away on Hersh's website, throwingmusic.com.
Here's the present. Here's Learn to Sing Like a Star. The album features beautiful strings, played by British friends, Martin and Kim McCarrick. Throwing Muses' David Narcizo supplies the drums (and also the album cover, starring Kristin's lips!) while Kristin plays everything else. "No sound went down on this record unchallenged," Hersh explains, "if we'd heard it before-- a surf-guitar, for instance--we layered it with piano reverb, tubular bells, and backwards bass to create an unusual hybrid tone with more character."
Added by monosyllabic on January 31, 2007