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Classic Album Reviews: Throwing Muses | Throwing Muses / Kristin Hersh | The Grotto

Whatever your mood, singer-guitarist Kristin Hersh has an abum to match.

This came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Playing a new Kristin Hersh album can be as unsettling as getting an unexpected gift from an old, dear — and sadly troubled — friend.

For years, Hersh has suffered from a bipolar disorder which reportedly makes her believe voices in her head write her songs. And over those years, her music and output have often reflected her mental health. What to make of two simultaneous releases, then? Is this Hersh in a manic phase? Or simply in a healthy and productive place?

I’m inclined to assume the latter, judging by the new self-titled reunion album from her old band Throwing Muses. Welcoming drummer David Narcizo, bassist Bernard Georges and even formerly estranged half-sister Tanya Donnelly back into the fold, Hersh revisits her early ’90s glory days — and in fact, may even improve upon them — with this dozen-song set of wiry, angular rockers built upon the dynamic shifts and tempo changes that typify her work. With its magnetic combination of fuzzed-out tension and undeniably poppy hooks and melodies, Throwing Muses is everything the last Breeders album should have been.

But if that disc represents the aggressive face of Hersh’s current state, then her new solo album The Grotto explores and exposes the shadows lurking beneath that surface. A sparse, hauntingly alluring affair featuring Giant Sand multi-instrumentalist Howe Gelb and violinist Andrew Bird, these 10 songs are the sort of troubled and troubling confessionals that have characterized much of Hersh’s work of late — music so intimate and bleak it makes Cat Power seem as bubbly and vacuous as a teen-pop queen. On the plus side: No matter what your mood — or hers — Hersh has a new disc to match.