A perfect blend of calm and storm
Throwing Muses is back with its newest release Sun Racket, and the group truly serves as a paragon for what great rock music should be today. Expertly staying true to what they do best, Kristin Hersh (vocals, guitar), Bernard Georges (bass) and David Narcizo (drums) deliver a haunting yet raunchy album that will leave any listener pleasantly hypnotized by the ominous vocals and raw guitar riffs. The band has released 10 albums since their formation in the ’80s, and the musical expertise they’ve accumulated is apparent from the first song. Throwing Muses’ sheer skill would have been enough to make Sun Racket endlessly-playable, but the album is brimming with honest soul—a sign that Throwing Muses hasn’t lost their heart nor originality despite their long-term success.
Throwing Muses truly seems to view lyricism as a true craft, as each line on every track is emotional and revealing, but not in the stereotypical sense of positively emotional. The lyrics are raunchy, cutting and address darker, yet unremarkable parts of life with an honest lens. For instance, in the song “Milk At McDonald’s,” Hersh delivers “I don’t regret a single drop of alcohol,” brilliantly highlighting the complex relationship between truth and accountability. Though the song may seem like it has a dark undertone—potentially suggesting a negative relationship with alcohol—Hersh is taking ownership of her words while acknowledging her behaviors, indicating she is self-assured and confident, leaving the listener feeling confident in themselves too. The delivery is almost casual too,—though excellently sung—it felt like weighty bombs were being lyrically dropped left and right without further explanation.
This also happens in “Frosting,” where Hersh questions “in heaven maybe they don’t call you crazy,” indicating a theme of social isolation and frustration in Sun Racket, but also one of self-acceptance. These casual themes and behavior better inclined the listener to explore themselves intrinsically and possibly accept their own peculiarities. Yet, the album becomes more personal as Hersh sings “In a heaven hell made” in the last song “Sue’s.” In a piece about the relationship to the self, this can be a polarizing statement leaving people divided on whether the album has a more pessimistic or optimistic conclusion when it comes to being stuck with the self. It seems as though Throwing Muses is questioning whether or not one can have the perfect relationship with oneself, or if there will always be a darker part of that individual, yet unprovoked. Nobody really has the answer, but it’s definitely an interesting consideration to chew on.
Throwing Muses also masterfully blended every instrument into one cohesive river of sound, gently ebbing and flowing throughout a canyon. Some parts were rockier while some were definitely more slow-paced, but that is what is so wonderful about Throwing Muses, they know how to carry their audience seemingly throughout the different variations in their music. It’s almost the perfect blend of calm and storm, if that is possible. Another striking quality present in the band’s instrumental work is the fact that the listener can actually feel something while listening to the album. Not because there is anything crazy or sensational, they just perfectly blend the classic elements of the drum, bass and guitar like no other.
In “Bywater” Hersh can sing obscure lyrics like “Who’s goldfish in the toilet,” without too much of an eyebrow raise, indicating Throwing Muses’ instrumental talents. The physical instruments also never conflicted with the vocals, but rather the vocals served as an instrument in their own right. This is particularly present in “Bo Diddley Bridge,” where Hersh’s gruff, yet feminine delivery coupled with the blare of the guitar beautifully foil each other throughout the song. It’s also worth mentioning there are very few lyrics in each song, and these are replaced by scores of engaging basslines, guitar riffs and drum beats that affirm Throwing Muses’ musical genius.
Overall, Throwing Muses definitely has a talent when it comes to crafting an amazing rock album. They’ve mastered every element just right, not only instrumentally but in the development of their purposeful and thought-provoking lyrics. There isn’t a bad song on Sun Racket, and it will definitely leave listeners feeling like good music is still being made in 2020.