Throwing Muses – Purgatory/Paradise (2013)

There is no shame is admitting you don’t get the Throwing Muses or for that matter know who the Throwing Muses are. I originally wanted to dismiss them as a schizophrenic lesbian hippie band with no sense of rhythm, but I quickly discovered the band operated on its own cosmic plain and marched (literally) to the beat of a different drummer. I was firmly on the Throwing Muses bandwagon by the time they got to their fourth album, 1991’s The Real Ramona.

Unfortunately, I discovered the band after they disbanded in 1997. Luckily, lead muse Kristin Hersh has toured constantly as well as released a series of fine solo albums. Last year I caught a Hersh concert in Chicago and was pleasantly surprised by her moving and powerful show as well as her news of a new Throwing Muses album.

Late in 2013 the group released Purgatory/Paradise, an expansive 32 track CD with an detailed and gorgeous book, a 32 track bonus instrumental cd and commentary download regarding the making of the album. Throwing Muses, now made up of composer, guitarist and singer Hersh, David Narcizo on drums and Bernard Georges on bass quickly picked up where they left off after 1997’s Limbo.

Hersh’s quirky yet effective vocals are still there, and still perfectly match her lyrics. They lyrics themselves don’t match the music but rub against the melody creating an effective sonic tension. What’s Hersh singing about? I’m not sure, even after reading the lyrics in the expansive book.

The song “Sunray Venus” is one of my favorites yet I’m not sure of the context of the lyrics “…open your mouth you’re blessed for the moment kisses all around; sunray Venus crushed underfoot and kisses all around, leaving that is limbo, hell I remember you…”. Still this is good incentive to read the accompanying book.

Throwing Muses continue their effective use of shifting rhythms and tempos too. On the stand out track “Freesia” the melody rocks along then suddenly doesn’t with an unexpected and challenging modulation. Bassist Bernard Georges and drummer David Narcizo hold things together perfectly. On the song “ Terra Nova Hersh sings, “…nothing’s perfect ‘till it’s better”. Somehow after listening to this perplexing, mystical and perfectly engrossing album, you understand exactly what she means.

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Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Chicago. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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