When you do an image search on this album’s title, you get the above first, or at least I do, maybe because Bing is used to me searching for CD art now, but after that it’s all a bunch of Real Housewives stuff. Which maybe would have been a better lead for this review than that awful, awful cover art, which unbelievably came out in 1991, when folks should have been designing for the CD format, but clearly here were still thinking vinyl was a thing.
Anyway, turns out I like this album a lot more than I thought I did and a lot more than I did on initial re-listens a few weeks ago. It’s been in my collection for probably about 20 years, me having received it as a gift, but I’m going back to do the review now that Dig Me Out is doing (did) a review of it.
So the thing about Throwing Muses is they’re like Tanya Donelly’s third band, not chronologically, but impactfully. She was also in The Breeders (I’m just learning this now) and Belly, both of which were bigger. Maybe Belly wasn’t but yeah they had like one mega hit and a monster album so okay they were bigger but I can’t stand them. The Breeders, though, they were mega critically and commercially, though moreso critically.
So anyway, mostly you’re like yeah that’s Donelly’s third most important band but then there’s Kristen Hersh who, well, there’s a Kristen Hersh camp out there and this is her most importantest band at least until she did solo stuff later on. And so all the maje Throwing Muses fans are probably like ugh this Donelly chick keeps messing things up for our reputation. I don’t know, I’m just making stuff up.
So, this is kind of typically 90’s, with its combination of catchy melodies and weirdo drawn-out experimental songwriting and song construction. On the other hand, this came out in February of 1991, which holy god is like six to seven months before Nevermind and Ten. If this had come out two years later it probably would have seen hella rotation on alternative radio, but as it was, it was basically Throwing Muses’ last hurrah in an era where hair metal still ruled supreme. This is an album out of time.
It’s a bit of a schizophrenic album. While I can make sense of the sequencing, the weakest stuff is at the top, which leads to me generally being bored and feeling like I’m being jerked around over the course of it. “Hook In Her Head,” which navigates imperceptibly smoothly through several sections and ends up as a completely different song than the one it started as, bviously seems like the centerpiece now, but that’s after I’ve listened to it 30 times…and it’s placed eighth out of 12 tracks and is kind of overshadowed by “Ellen West,” the album’s best track, two tracks earlier.
If you took the album’s best tracks as one-offs, I really like it. And if you take its weaker tracks (note that nothing is worse than Meh) as one-offs, I’m even kind of digging them. But the album just stands there confused about what it wants to be as a whole. I like this, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
Really Like: “Ellen West”
Like: “Hook In Her Head,” “Not Too Soon,” “Say Goodbye,” “Two Step”
Meh: “Counting Backwards,” “Him Dancing,” “Red Shoes,” “Graffiti,” “Golden Thing,” “Dylan,” “Honeychain”
Filed Between: [I have no idea, I haven’t unpacked my CDs from the move yet]
Song Notes: After the jump
- Counting Backwards – vox remind me of Eleven’s Natasha Schneider
- Him Dancing
- Red Shoes – I had this down as a Porno For Pyros rip-off but PFP’s debut album came out two years after this, so draw your own conclusions
- Graffiti – guit tone here a bit like The Cars
- Golden Thing –
- Ellen West – Cannot hear without thinking of military criminal and Presidental candidate Allen West
- Dylan – duh boring instrumental that’s de rigeur in 90’s rock…
- Hook In Her Head – …which leads into album’s centerpiece, the 6:30 epic track which got promoted from dislike to like over the course of listening to this album
- Not Too Soon – super freaking catchy, the screams are too much, but it did get promoted from dislike to like on the strength of the rest of it
- Say Goodbye – starts with street sounds, talking, etc.
- Two Step –