Monday, 24 January 2011



To instigate an argument between hipsters and heads I used to pose the question: Kristin Hersh or Chan Marshall?  Invariably this was never a question cleanly answered, there were just too many elements influencing proceedings such as cred points, age, attraction.

Kristin Hersh is quite an intimidating character.  Coming from tough origins her ability to remain resilient, relevant and generally around is the mark of stern and strong stuff.  All along she has retained a look/stare that could kill.  And with her words it probably has.

Crooked is the eighth solo album from Hersh which coupled with so many Throwing Muses records makes for quite the body of work.  And with that the album comes packaged as a hardback book with amongst lyrics and artwork an essay by her about each song.  This is not a lazy lady as in construct she also produced the record while playing all the instruments.  Here is how you multitask.

With time her voice has deepened reflecting age and the experience that comes with.  And as I flick through the book I discover that she has four sons.  This is a superwoman.

I must admit that I am surprised when I remove the shrink-wrap and crack open the book to not discover a disc of any kind inside.  This truly is a different era.  So this is how an artist gets round the end of the physical format.

Lyrically Crooked feels quite the narrated intrusion as Hersh offers an explicit post-mortem of testing times at the hands of unhealthy influence.  Often it feels like therapy for both the author and the listener.  Lines such as “you’re very clean, I give up” and “Why put the light on at all” in “Glass” reveal quite the scenario, quite the situation and intention.  Then the delivery of the title track’s opening “hold the flashlight under your chin, closer as the lights dim” are some of the darkest words heard all year.

It is on “Sand” when Hersh skates finest motoring with jangly guitar and stretching vocals all sewn up with a curling hook that’s contradictory and effective.  Musically even if the pace is mostly mid tempo often there is exhibition that imposing and grand.

With “Moan” she reaches a unique place sounding like Mazzy Starr covering “If I Think” by Mudhoney.  Meanwhile “Fortune” proves very conversational and confessional as words come in waves especially with such statements as “you cost a fortune, you cast a shadow” which is certainly a sentiment most people can place on a pairing and moment in time.

The eventual outro of “Rubidoux” serves as an expansive haunting freeway this whisks the listener away to a conclusion.

Crooked is an incredible work coming at a much appreciated time.  The pain that is transmitted is translated to electric ends.

Thesaurus moment: anfractuous.

Throwing Music
Friday Books

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