Throwing Muses @ De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 01.11.11
Words: Chris Razor
Photography: Greg Neate
It’s easy to forget just how important certain artists have been in your life. In the mid-80s, when the monochrome indie orthodoxy of Smiths-derived bands was seriously starting to pall, Throwing Muses were just the sudden injection of something fiery, emotional and disorientating that some of us had been craving.Their kick-slam, turn-on-a-dime mixture of … well, a whole bunch of different musics we’d never heard before, including several they made up themselves, was delivered with the preconception-free alacrity that only four hippyish teenagers can achieve, but it felt more like the sudden arrival on Earth of alien demons. Switches of mood, key and tempo were part of the crazy cowpunk rollercoaster, which I coined the word ‘pronk’ to describe (though it later got co-opted to describe The Cardiacs). Even now, with their every twist and jolt ingrained in my synapses, how truly extraordinary those early songs sound – not as in merely outstanding, but as in how the fuck did they come up with that?!
Interestingly, we can now answer that. Kristin’s eye-opening autobiography describes in some detail the process by which, courtesy of a brain injury, those songs came to her: they would start as a buzz in her brain that slowly resolved into chords and lyrics, which she would then painstakingly transliterate. Occasionally these would get welded to fragments she’d written more consciously. But the final translation step, from Kristin and her guitar to full band arrangement, could only be built with fully aware consideration – more, I suspect, than that of bands who ‘know’ how to make music. David has admitted that he didn’t really have any idea how one was supposed to play a drumkit when he joined the band, but his innovative circular paradiddles were another happily untutored component, criss crossing with Leslie Langston’s catwalking bass syncopations; the whole hanging together in a miracle of blind watchmaker proportions. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to making art I tend to trust people who don’t ‘know’ what they’re doing, but are happy to feel their way along, finding out the hard way what works. And, damn, this was good shit.
So: 25 years of Throwing Muses. Their singular fire had been absent from my life for too long when, earlier this year, a friend asked me to make him a Muses introduction CD. (I always envy people in that position, about to discover an extraordinary band for the first time, without all the less-good bits and endless waiting.) Gathering together songs that had been reduced, in my mind, to a mere litany of ‘essential’ titles, and working them up into a seamless DJ set, I was grateful for a new burst of flame, a reminder of glorious dislocation.
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