25.11.05

the Last Genius In Town

It's really, really cold outside. Not the predicted snow, but nonetheless, brass monkeys would certainly suffer. Today has been a day involving cleaning the house and charity shopping. As in, buying from charity shops, not buying charities.

Today's opine is less invective, more affective. It's possible I've gushed a little too much in recent days about this lady but as far I as can tell, there's no-one out there right now to touch Kristin Hersh in terms of beautifully-structured, and emotionally red-raw songs. Given her acclaimed past product it'd be justifiable to expect a lapse in intensity, a little easing off of the putting herself through the ringer. But no: just this week Kristin played a set of Throwing Muses songs to a packed Scala in London, as part of 4AD's birthday celebrations, and it clearly wasn't easy for her. She's not unduly reticent about her bipolar disorder, and her songs can veer just as much from the tame to the snarling, from the savage punk of 50 Foot Wave to the tender and vulnerable acoustic work of her solo releases.
Kristin formed Throwing Muses with her half-sister Tanya Donelly in the mid-80's and released a bunch of great albums (I'd recommend The Real Ramona and Limbo, off the top of my head). In fact, the Muses are almost a going concern, having released their last new album as recently as 2003, again to a great reception. In 1994, she released her first solo album, the stark, occasionally brutal but always beautiful Hips And Makers (still probably my favourite release of hers, period) and has gone on to release several more. Right now, her main concern is the startlingly urgent punk of 50 Foot Wave - Golden Ocean was released this year, very good it is too, and a new EP 'Free Music' is in the can (free is actually the right word, the band plan to release it, get this, for free).

So anyway, the last genius in town, Kristin Hersh. Most people would agree that genius is a hugely overused word, but I'll stick by it in this instance. Tortured genius, certainly, but what's great art without conflict? I know of no other artist with such an entrancing voice, or who can captivate an entire venue whether she's singing along to herself on guitar, or telling cute little stories of mice in toasters, or rats that can be seen from ten stories high, describing the writing of the songs. Any artist whose songs consistently defy categorisation sheerly through the inventiveness of the writing, while paradoxically staying within the realms of traditional and popular song.

Genius: Ok, a sampler - again courtesy of yousendit.com, so it's available for seven days from now.
Throwing Muses - Hook In Her Head (from The Real Ramona, 1991)
Kristin Hersh - Velvet Days (from Hips And Makers, 1994)
50 Foot Wave - Clara Bow (from 50 Foot Wave EP, 2004)

1 comment:

jediroller said...

I hereby declare you a man of superior taste.