Why didn’t I love this band before? – Throwing Muses

by Steve

Throwing MusesThis is the first in what is likely to be a (very) occasional series of posts on bands I really should have loved before now. I like to think I have pretty Catholic tastes, but yet there a number of bands that have fallen through the cracks. Here is the first instalment in me trying to rectify that.

In this age of Spotify, last.fm etc, it is so much easier to listen to new music, be it just-released albums, or work from years gone by that you’ve overlooked for one reason or another.

I first got into indie/alternative music in the early nineties, and I while I listened to a lot of radio and devoured the weekly music press, my budget was pretty limited, and so there were a lot of bands who sounded great, but whom I missed out on exploring further. Buying an album, or even a new single was a serious investment. The main risks/gambles I took with my music purchasing were via the sales and the bargain bins, and so my listening was shaped accordingly. I miss those bargain bins. I miss having a number of good record shops nearby, but that’s another story for another time.

So, how did I miss Throwing Muses? Well, by the time I started reading the music press (late 1992) coverage of them already seemed to have fallen into a series of clichés: crazy singer, weird lyrics, odd song structures, guitarist who left for other poppier projects etc etc. They were probably not an obvious choice for a boy who hadn’t long discovered Nirvana and the indie charts.

I soon discovered Belly (Tanya Donelly, the guitarist who left, with her poppier project) and loved them. They were catchy, fizzy, fun, yet had their darker moments, certainly lyrically. I bought Gepetto on cassingle (remember those?) and played it to death. I’m sure I put their albums on my Christmas list, but Santa didn’t deliver, sadly.

I also enjoyed Kristin Hersh’s (Throwing Muses’ frontwoman) solo single with Michael Stipe, Your Ghost. What could be more accessible than a duet with the REM guy? Yet Throwing Muses continued to elude me.

I didn’t mind their single, Bright Yellow Gun, but it seemed pretty standard indie fare. This wasn’t the strange music I’d been promised.

And so to now, and my ongoing quest to fill in those musical gaps of mine. I’ve been working my way through their catalogue and I’m happy to report that, on first impressions, I’m sold. This is some incredible music.

I’m particularly taken with their first album. It is incredible that such a confident, weird, compelling album was made by a bunch of teenagers. The best bands emerge within their own world, immediately sound like nobody but themselves. Sonically, melodically, harmonically, lyrically, they are distinctive. This isn’t throwaway, bubblegum stuff, yet it is still pretty accessible. The songs have the kind of odd hooks that get under your skin, a twisted development on new wave’s jerkier moments, perhaps. The lyrics conjure up incredible, elusive images. This is band you could get lost in, could get passionate about. I understand the fuss now.

This is music to immerse myself in, to learn all the awkward angles, 90 degree turns, overworldly yelps and arresting turns of phrase. I’m glad I got there…eventually. There’s something pretty fantastic about having a band’s whole discography to explore. It is also pretty wonderful that Kristin Hersh is all about giving away free music. That, and she has a book out too.

So, what bands have you come to far too late?