Throwing Muses
April 25, 2003 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Throwing Muses are among the most sadly unsung bands of the alt.rock era. Though beloved by critics (particularly the British press) and adored by a small army of devoted fans, they disbanded in 1997 for financial reasons. After releasing a killer new album, the band (featuring prodigal Muse and Belly founder Tanya Donnelly) are back for what may be the last time. (more inside)
posted by pxe2000 (32 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
with all the posts about madonna and the white stripes this week, it's beginning to look like musicfilter in here. i saw throwing muses last night for the second or third time and was completely blown away. their records blend passion and catharsis with such incredible musical ability (the arrangements on the first throwing muses albums is just amazing), and i can't keep watching these other bands make the headlines while these guys disband in semi-obscurity.
posted by pxe2000 at 9:01 AM on April 25, 2003

Yes it is beginning to look like Musicfilter in here. Or Musicfilter.
'The Filters. The Fillllters...'

posted by i_cola at 9:21 AM on April 25, 2003

Sadly unsung? You must be kidding. They were wildly known during the 1990s, including the later Belly and the Kristen Hersh solo stuff. You know, with my bright yellow gun?
posted by the fire you left me at 9:22 AM on April 25, 2003

All this talk of "sadly unsung" makes me dizzy, dizzy, dizzy in my head.
posted by dhacker at 9:35 AM on April 25, 2003

pxe2000:the arrangements on the first throwing muses albums is just amazing

Especially, when you consider that they were all teenagers (about 18 yrs old) when the album was made and that Kristen Hersh, the driving force behind the band, was pregnant.

I'll admit it, I rather biased towards Kristen. The fact that she has continued to make incredible music through tremendous personal turmoil - she has Bi-polar Disorder with Psychotic Features, she lost primary custody of her eldest child to a man who beat her - and she just keeps getting better and better.

On a personal note, at 17 I had been diagnosed with Clinical Depression after a 6 week stay in a mental hospital. This was back in 1985, when Depression was still pretty strongly stigmatized, and I felt like a loser freak with no future.

Aside from the few friends I felt comfortable talking to about it, my greatest comfort was listening to the Throwing Muses. Kristen wasn't open about her diagnosis back then, but it was pretty obvious to me from the lyrics she wrote that she had mental health issues.

Knowing that there was someone out there who was going through some of the same stuff I was, and who managed to accomplish so much in spite of it, gave me hope. It sounds kind of stupid, but that hope was the only thing that kept me going sometimes.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:42 AM on April 25, 2003 [1 favorite]

okay, so they weren't as underrated as i painted them -- apparently they had some college radio airplay. in spite of their radio hits, their records sold next to nothing and got little creative support from their record label. i would wager that their first self-titled album (aka "the green album") is better than anything by sonic youth or mefi faves the white stripes, but the record is not seen as being important or revolutionary in the same way that sister (ick) or de stijl is.

that's what i meant by "sadly unsung".

also, i purposely didn't include kristen's solo work or belly into the equation -- kristen hersh solo has a larger fan base than the band throwing muses and belly were in a whole other universe with their success, and neither success really affected throwing muses sales- or show-wise.

that's all. sorry if i was unclear. carry on...
posted by pxe2000 at 9:49 AM on April 25, 2003

sadly, no mention in the article about the band's original bassist, Leslie Langston. Anyone know whatever happened to her (and no, she was not the bassist in Rosie O'Donnell's band, what a horrible rumor to circulate)??

I STILL use the lyrics to "Cry Baby, Cry" when I teach poetry.

Saw hersh 2 years ago when she played for a small crowd at a local museum, and the muses many many moons ago when Langston was still in the band. Good stuff!

"Where is my husband, AHHHHHH!!!"
posted by archimago at 9:56 AM on April 25, 2003

Hey, by most music fans standards they didn't achieve any recognizable level of popularity, at least the levels they deserved. Some of us musical misfits who paid attention probably thought they were popular in our own little universes.
posted by dhacker at 10:00 AM on April 25, 2003

Man, tonya donnelly threw her pants at at a belly concert once. it was halloween and she was dressed as "weezer" (thick dark glasses, geek polyester pants, white button down shirt, subpop cap). periodically throughout the concert, she would take off an artcile of clothing and throw it into the crowd, wearing a black body suit underneath. I caught her pants. i think my head almost exploded.
posted by Hackworth at 10:12 AM on April 25, 2003

archimago: leslie is living in california somewhere -- she was supposed to join the muses for the boston gut pageant two years ago but that never materialized. (for the record, rosie o'donnell's bass player was tracey wormwood, late of the waitresses and a touring incarnation of the b-52s.)

dhacker: sorry to get all defensive -- i love their music and i wish more people knew about it.

echolalia67: i didn't want to talk about kristin's bipolarity beacuse so many people have mentioned it in reference to her work and i didn't want to pigeonhole her as "the crazy woman". in any event, thank you for sharing your story here -- it's very brave for you to talk about it, and i hope you are doing well. :)
posted by pxe2000 at 10:20 AM on April 25, 2003

substitue that second "at" in my first sentance with a "me".
posted by Hackworth at 10:26 AM on April 25, 2003

This is nice and all, but my heart still wants a Royal Trux reforming, an event with even less likelihood of happening.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:26 AM on April 25, 2003

I STILL use the lyrics to "Cry Baby, Cry" when I teach poetry.

Wasn't that a cover of a Beatles song?
posted by nyxxxx at 10:38 AM on April 25, 2003

Wait a minute - Kristin Hirsh? I know that name; Salmacis included a Kristin Hersh song on (his? hers? its?) Metafilter CD Swap disc. "Your Ghost" - creepy, wound-up, and very cool. That was the single best track on any of the swap CDs I got, actually. Hmm, maybe I should check this band out...
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:47 AM on April 25, 2003

OMG more band spam.

posted by xmutex at 10:50 AM on April 25, 2003

throwing muses did cover the beatles' "cry baby cry" but they also wrote a song with the same name.

(pssst, xmutex: at least there's more interesting stuff going on in here than in any of the madonna threads, eh what?)
posted by pxe2000 at 10:53 AM on April 25, 2003

Who here knows Kristen Hersh's cover of Vic Chesnutt's "Panic Pure"? Man, that is two healthy helpin's of crazy all wrapped up in a bow. Fine, fine stuff.
posted by luser at 11:03 AM on April 25, 2003

It would be nice to have so much time on my hands that I could read threads that I didn't give a shit about, so I could contribute an irrelevant, childish, and sarcastic comment. xmutex: turn the computer off and go find something to do. now.
posted by monkeyman at 11:26 AM on April 25, 2003

It has already been praised in this thread, but the first self titled Muses record influenced my bass playing as much as anyone besides Peter Hook. Lucious melodic and flowing basslines weaving through staggered loopy rhythms messed me up!! I was 17 and discovering the joy (?) of goth girls at the time so the dark creepy atmosphere of this record defined the summer between high school and college for me.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 11:53 AM on April 25, 2003

I also heard the Muses had a new album out and before that, I started listening to their "University" CD again. Love it, still great stuff.

Thanks for the tip and I'll see if I can locate their Green CD.

Interestingly enough, I was recently diagnosed with slight depression, possibly bipolar and am on paxil [SSRI's]. Sure has helped me focus and get my feet planted a little firmly on earth. The process continues. Coincidence? Who knows. I felt judging by her lyrics that she had been around the block and had been through some difficult times. A fine way of expression in any case.

I've also recently discovered Neko Case [Blacklisted] and Carolyn Mark [Terrible Hostess], both have fine voices and great lyrics. Both are on mint records.
posted by alicesshoe at 11:57 AM on April 25, 2003

alicesshoe: the self-titled "green" album has been reissued in the states as in a doghouse, with an ep, a single, and some demos. it's still in print, and it's a powerful album.

i should probably take this comment to MeTa, but the beauty of music threads is that music is something that touches us all deeply and something to which we all have a personal response. while there has been a moderate snark factor in this thread, there's also been some great personal insights about why we respond so passionately to certain bands. it's wonderful to read some of these stories and responses. thanks for sharing, girls.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:43 PM on April 25, 2003

Metafilter: thanks for sharing, girls

*runs out of the room*

*like a girl*
posted by luser at 1:22 PM on April 25, 2003

Kristin Hersh is one of my favorite artists, ever. I saw Throwing Muses once, at an in-store at Let It Be records in Minneapolis. This was for the album "Limbo," so it was just Kristin and two other musicians, not the "real" Throwing Muses (to my mind). Though I've gotten to see Kristin play solo with acoustic guitar several times, I've never had a chance to see Throwing Muses in all-out rawk mode. (Well, I had a chance to see them right before they broke up (and before Limbo), but I was "too tired" to go. Man, I regret that to this day.)

So are the Muses touring the U.S. right now?

And can anyone who's heard the new TM or KH albums (which were released at the same time) tell me anything about them? I was standing in a record store with both of them in my hands, but at the last minute chickened out about spending the $34.

By the way, Kristin Hersh tells some of the funniest stories, ever. I saw her on the "Strange Angels" tour, and she said, "this song is from my new album, which is called Strange Angels. It was going to be called something else."

"What were you going to call it?" I asked (the auditorium was pretty quiet and attentive, so it was almost like having a conversation).

She then launched into this story about how she had been pregnant, and her son wanted to name the baby. He had already named the dog, Captain John Smith. She asked him what he wanted to name the baby, and he said "Arstulio Powder Pancake the Third." So then she said she told her son he could name the album instead. He wanted to call it, "A Stupid Man is Good to Eat."

"So I called it Strange Angels," said Kristin.
posted by spacewaitress at 2:10 PM on April 25, 2003 [1 favorite]

I just got my tickets to the final (Seattle) show.

I love Kristin's between-song chatter. When I saw her solo show (after Hips and Makers) she had new guitar strings, which she had to retune between every song, which meant we got a lot of anecdotes that time.

I got both albums and I'm ashamed to say I haven't heard the Throwing Muses one yet. Ask me again in a few days =)
posted by O9scar at 2:34 PM on April 25, 2003

I've been a Throwing Muses / Kristen Hersh fan for a number of years now, unfortunately not when they were popular. I confess to liking KH solo stuff better than the Muses, but it's all good. Got my tix for the SF show today (damn Tanya for not being there and me for being to cheap to fly to LA). spacewaitress: I've not heard the new TM CD, but the recent KH is good, awfully thick, but good - not as good as Sunny Border Blue. Hehe, I think one reviewer (possibly from Amazon) referred to it as Kristens 'inscrutable post graduate lyrics'. Hee hee.
posted by elendil71 at 2:52 PM on April 25, 2003

Thanks pxe.

Living in a large city, there are at least 8 "second hand" CD stores within 6 blocks of me and I buy them for under $10.00 Canadian. WooHoo.

BTW, alicesshoe isn't self sex referential, I'm a guy.

Self sex referencial? WTH?
posted by alicesshoe at 2:57 PM on April 25, 2003

Kristin also has a dog named Monkey Two Times because it's name was originally Monkey, but when they called it, they always said, "monkey monkey," and the kid decided Monkey Two Times sounded better. Or something like that.

Yeah the new TM album is excellent. Her solo record is good too but I don't find myself listening to it as much as the Muses record or as much as her other solo work; really, Hips and Makers is the standard bearer for her solo albums and is so strong that I felt it really doomed the rest of her work to pale by comparison.
posted by akmonday at 3:41 PM on April 25, 2003

I saw/met the Throwing Muses back in about '88 or so, at One Step Beyond in Santa Clara, right on the heel of House Tornado. I was a nervious young fan who was absolutely in awe of everything 4AD in the wake of the "Lonely is an Eyesore" compilation, which has to be pretty much the most vital compilation ever. In one brief moment, we were given a snapshot of Throwing Muses, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, Clan of Xymox, Wolfgang Press... people bought that import-only CD for $23 and left with a smile.

Bela Lugosi was dead and Ian Curtis was in his grave, but the new bands of 4AD took that same aesthetic, ran with it in several different directions at once, and absolutely made it work. All praise Ivo.

I was friends with OSB's owner Stan, who got me on the list and cleared for an interview with the band for the college station I worked at.

The the energy that Kristen put off vocally was amazing -- there was something about her voice that just cut in to you in an emotionally raw way. Songs blended into each other and the crowd sat on the floor, absolutely mesmerized.

Afterwards, it was Leslie the bass player's birthday... lots of old friends of hers from Santa Cruz were there, wishing her well. In amongst the beer and cake, I walked back and forth interviewing the various members of the band. I was kind of shocked to find out Kristen was so young, yet creating great music and touring across the country with her kid in tow. How she managed it, I don't know...

Although I hope to see this tour if it is their last time around, it will still be a bit bittersweet, because Tanya isn't doing the S.F. shows and Leslie, their old bass player who used to live in Santa Cruz, won't be there. As always, there is no going back...
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:17 PM on April 25, 2003

pxe2000: Kristen will never be "that crazy woman" in anyone's mind, as far as I know. Unfortunately, I think that distinction has been reserved for Sinead O'Connor.

Thank you so much for your kind words. I have to watch it or I'll start to cry. Happy tears, of course :)
posted by echolalia67 at 6:53 PM on April 25, 2003

insomnia_lj: I got to see them on that tour at the late, great I-Beam in SF. Religious experience. I remember looking around and seeing all of these people mouthing the words to every song like a I said, a religious experience. I feel so fortunate to have seen them in their original line-up.
posted by echolalia67 at 7:03 PM on April 25, 2003

I just caught the show at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA. Good show. Tanya joined Kristin and the band for many more songs than I expected - Say Goodbye, Not Too Soon, Two Step, and others.

The rhythm section was incredibly tight too. (Was that David N. on the drums? I couldn't really tell from where I was standing.)

Good mixed crowd, including many who might have been early fans two decades ago, and now middle aged - smiling at the few moshing kids.

A good night out, and so wonderful to see them again. Last time I'd seen them in action was years ago, at the MIT Student Center of all places. I actually didn't feel like going out, but reading some of the recollections in this thread helped change my mind. Thanks.
posted by shortfuse at 10:26 PM on April 25, 2003

Say Goodbye, Not Too Soon, Two Step

OMG, these are old songs and some of my favorites. I had no idea they'd be performing these.

I live in the Midwest, so no chance I'll be seeing them, but it almost makes me want to buy a plane ticket to Seattle to see the next show.
posted by spacewaitress at 4:45 PM on April 26, 2003

« Older Free Comic Book Day - 3 May 2003   |   Florida's Culture Cutbacks Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments