Monday, November 16, 2009

76. “In Shock” by Kristen Hersh (2007)

The first concert I ever saw was 10,000 Maniacs at Jones Beach and it was pretty underwhelming. I was expecting crazy energy and people dancing and partying and I got Natalie Merchant spinning around the Jones Beach Amphitheatre and a bunch of 30-somethings sitting there nodding their heads. This is relevant because the second concert I ever saw -- R.E.M. at the Nassau Coliseum on the Green tour – featured the Throwing Muses as the opening act. They were a huge revelation to me – punky, but conventional; dissonant, but tuneful; cool, but energetic; edgy, but accessible. It was everything I had imagined a rock concert would be. After it, I went to Tower and bought all of their records – one of them cost me something like $14.99 for a tape, a German import. I’ve since lost those tapes, but I still own Hunkpapa on vinyl and I still listen to “Hate My Way” all the time. Strangely, of all the music out there, this was without a doubt one of my favorite bands from high school.

So it’s safe to say that I have a soft spot for Kristen Hersh.

The Muses had some breakthrough hits in the early 90s, like everyone else. Tanya Donnelly really cashed in when The Breeders got huge and through all of this I lost touch with where Hersh was. As it turns out, she has been making great, Muses-style music for all that time as a solo artist. In 2007, I happened upon a review of her new record and ended up buying “In Shock” on iTunes. It brought everything back, but it also improved on everything I used to like about The Muses. Instead of tons of treble and snare drums, there is lush orchestration and baroque sounding strings. The song is deep and layered and powerful and it basically takes everything good about Kristen Hersh’s music and builds on it. This song is a winner, check it out.

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