Throwing Muses and Me

Anyone who knows me knows I love Throwing Muses. I have loved this band longer than anything in this world, except maybe my family, of course. Obviously I’ve known them longer. I have loved this band like I have never loved any other band. 26 years. I doubt I can ever love another band like I love Throwing Muses. The impending release of their first record in 10 years has me reminiscing about my journey with this band through the course of my entire adult life.

This new book/album, Purgatory/Paradise, is coming in a matter of weeks and I’m stupid excited about it. This record is epic and smart. At 32 songs long, it’s a lot to take in. A lot of the songs are linked together, which makes it super interesting to listen to. You’ll find bits of songs in others, a bridge in one song might pop up as a chorus in another, a lyric will seem familiar and you’ll go back to find which other song has it, too. It’s so fun to find these links and associations. I’m such a dork I started making a diagram of these interrelationships. I’m quite sure I haven’t found them all. Hopefully people will help me complete it. I’ll post it when the album comes out.

I’ve probably written this story a few times over the years, but I discovered this band one day in autumn of 1987. I still remember sitting on that lavender carpet in my bedroom, listening to the Just Say Yes CD sampler I had just picked up from the local music store. I had bought it because it was full of a lot of bands I was listening to back then. I remember being absolutely stunned when A Feeling came on. I had been flipping through the booklet and it stopped me dead in my tracks, that song. If only I knew then what a defining moment in my life that would turn out to be.

A Feeling. I loved A Feeling. I had never heard anything like it before. Something about how this band sounded. The vocals. The music. I was in awe. This was 1987. We had no internet. I was 17. I set off in my shitty car in search of anything I could find on this band. I went to every indie record store I could find on Long Island. I drove to some pretty sketchy places. I found Chains Changed and The Fat Skier on vinyl. Those records were more of those sounds! Those incredible sounds! I loved it all. So much to take in, it was wonderful! I searched every music publication and zine for information on this band. I still have pictures and articles I had pasted on my wall in my room.

In May of 88 they played at the Ritz in NYC. The old Ritz. The Pixies opened. I brought a few of my friends with me to that show, and I remember standing there, slightly to the left, between Tanya and Kristin, toward the front. It was the House Tornado tour. I don’t think I even had the album at the time that they played so I didn’t really know all the songs they were performing but, god, did I know I loved this band. This was what I needed and this is what I found. Finally, I got my hands on House Tornado. I loved it, but it was dense. It took me years to really *get* that album but it’s still one of my favorites.

I never did send a letter to “mitch” listed in the House Tornado liner notes and join the fan club. I was far too shy for that. I didn’t know what to say. I was fine with loving them in my own little world. In September of ’88 I moved to Boston for college and Hunkpapa soon came out. That album still reminds me of that dorm room and its cinder block walls. Little did I know that a few months later I’d be meeting this “mitch”, because as it turns out Mitchell worked at BU where I was going to school. And coincidentally, we had a mutual friend.

I loved Boston. I knew I belonged in Boston when I visited with my family when I was about 12. I looked up at the brownstones along Storrow Drive as we drove into the city and knew right then that was where I needed to be. Coincidentally, Throwing Muses were a Boston band. And by now we’re starting to notice that there really are no coincidences.

Boston was perfect. It fit me perfectly. It was everything that was missing from my life on Long Island, where I grew up. I never felt like that was the place for me. In Boston, I belonged. I found great people. More great music. Many great experiences. I went to every single Throwing Muses show that happened in and around Boston with exceptions only for a couple of 21+ shows before I was old enough, and the time they opened for REM at Great Woods because I didn’t have a way to get there.

We regularly went to Providence to see the Muses. Often, we couldn’t get back because the last bus would leave before the show was over and no way were we leaving early. We did crazy things like meet people who’d drive us home, or we’d crash on someone’s friend’s floor at URI to take the morning bus back. It was all for the music. When I had a car we’d branch out and see Throwing Muses further out of Boston and Providence. Mitchell and I even traveled to the UK once and surprised Kristin on the streets of London when we ran into her before the gig.

I was at Leslie’s last show at the Living Room where I should have told her how much I loved her but I was far too terrified. I was at Tanya’s last show at the Marquee in NYC. I saw them play at a muddy mountain bike festival. I once saw them play 6 times in one month. I’ve seen them play probably something close to 50 times. This band. I’ve loved them since that first day I heard A Feeling. I’ve loved them every day since. And now comes Purgatory/Paradise and if anything I love them more than ever. I never expected them to put out another album, I try not to ever have expectations in general. But now that this is actually happening? The anticipation of that finished product is wonderful: the book, Kristin’s essays, David’s artwork, the CD and the sounds. I’m clearing my calendar the day I get my hands on this, so I can read, love and listen.

Not likin’ the shit

I think it’s a fair assumption that Kristin doesn’t like the shit between Piety and Desire Streets.

Between Piety & Desire is black comedy in song. It makes me laugh but I’m not always sure it should. The phrasing is just genius, though. And it’s hilarious. “incense, strawberry candles and so-ooap, way to butcher a street”. HA! The way she sings “soap” makes me laugh out loud. That’s funny shit, because she’s right. “you can smell them coming, a torture on the breeze” <– that right there, "a torture on the breeze" – a most genius-ly perfect way to convey a shit smell in the air.

"We're gonna die so what the fuck…" That shouldn't make me laugh, either.

The imagery Kristin puts forth in the first half of the song makes me feel like I'm *in* New Orleans when I’ve never actually been there. Then the shift after "sheer dumb luck", I feel it like a strong puff of air, oof, then it's like there's black smoke coming out from the strings as Kristin plays them, a dark, heavy smoke, that settles down around her feet, slowly reaching out, til suddenly the song ends and it's gone. I feel that smoke under the guitar, it's oppressive and heavy, but not completely so either. I feel a bit up in some of the notes played, with that heavy smoke underneath. The music is conveying some strong feelings as Kristin drills into your head that "we don't like the shit between Piety & Desire". It kinda makes me want to go there.