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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Kristin Hersh October 1, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I was never a fan of Throwing Muses – to be honest there were so many 4AD groups out there that I already liked, Lush, Ultra Vivid Scene, etc, that they didn’t figure on my radar. Later as a big fan of The Breeders I found myself bowled over by Tanya Donnelly’s vocals for that group, though it was long after that again that I started listening to her solo vehicle Belly. And Hersh I didn’t listen to at all until much later again. So much later that it was only in 2007 or so when I somehow acquired a copy of her solo album from that year – Learn to Sing Like A Star – that I realised what I’d been missing out on.

Her style is, I think it’s fair to say, eclectic, with an almost acoustic instrumentation that incorporates alternative, hints of goth and country. The songs surge and flow carried along by strings and strong melodies and her vocals run the range of whispered to full on. And there’s an oddly attractive – for want of a better word – cackly aspect to her vocals at times. They’re world weary but never beaten even when she delivers lines like ‘getting up is what hurts’.

The album starts with the monumental In Shock, a track so well constructed that it is remarkable it was never written before. The great swooping chorus carries all before it before it drops away to Hersh’s softer near-confessional verses. Nerve Endings has an almost Pixies like bluntness to the guitar line although it remains soft – Day Glow is louder, with the title words sung across Hersh’s voice and the strings rising and falling precipitously in the background.

Just on that, for all the variation in instrumentation this is without question a rock album – the vocals on Day Glow towards the end emphasise that. The underlying riffs – as with Under The Gun likewise (and some lovely minimal distorted guitar on that track used sparingly) or Sugar Baby. It’s also, or the most part, a short album. Songs speed by in less than four minutes apiece. There are three instrumental fragments. It’s later Hersh but extremely powerful. And there’s the lyrics… ‘the parrot lady of Lake Michigan’. Indeed.

I’ve never seen her live. Anyone who has?

In Shock

Under the Gun (Live)

Sugar Baby (acoustic)



1. crocodileshoes - October 1, 2016

She’s playing the Pavilion in Dun Laoghaire on November 2


WorldbyStorm - October 1, 2016

I did not know that, is she playing with a band?


34 theorchard1 - October 2, 2016

Not sure. Hope it’s not one of the dreaded ‘an evening with…’ shows with a few anecdotes and tootling from guest musicians while the big name leaves the stage for a sit down.


WorldbyStorm - October 2, 2016

Urghhhh… yeah, that’d be horrible.


2. gendjinn - October 3, 2016

Saw Hersh on her ’98 “Strange Angels” tour – it was a bit of “an evening with..” it was the only time I ever attended a seated concert at the Cat’s Cradle. It was just her, keyboardist, good show but nothing outstanding.

You are dead right about Donnelly’s voice. The original version of the Catherine Wheel song “Judy Staring at the Sun” with her vocals is brilliant. Her wiki page has the recording industry bs details.

And Belly is back. It seems if all your band members make it to their 40s or 50s you can reform.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 3, 2016

I’m no fan of ‘evening’s with’. I’d be a bit dubious about something like that!

Isn’t Donnelly’s voice a wonder? I saw that re Belly, I’m presuming that the non-Hersh version. I think you’re right too! 40s, 50s! Get it back together.


gendjinn - October 4, 2016

Ah it was decent enough, sure it was the height of MTV’s unplugged. And a dramatic counerpoint to the Sonic Youth concert which was way over the fire marshal limit, with everyone smoking Turkish cigarettes judging by the opaque density of the air in the room.


WorldbyStorm - October 4, 2016

I would have loved to see SY then.


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