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Throwing Muses


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Quirky, beautiful & fierce alternative rock

Status:

Most recent release, Purgatory/Paradise (2013)

See also:

Kristin Hersh and Throwing Muses

Wikipedia's entry on Throwing Muses

4AD's page for Throwing Muses

The Ectophiles' Guide entries for Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly, and for Kristin Hersh's other band, 50 Foot Wave

Comparisons:

Highly individual—they're one of those bands that other people get compared to.

Covers/own material:

Own

General comments:

My husband now laughs at how much I like them, because when he brought home Throwing Muses, The Fat Skier EP and House Tornado I couldn't stand the band's sound and made him play the albums only when I wasn't around. Then he brought hunkpapa home and it got its hooks in my head and the whole world changed. As I learned how to listen to the band I could go back and appreciate the earlier work.
     They started quite noisy and the melodic nature of Kristin Hersh's songwriting was hidden under crunchy sound. with hunkpapa and The Real Ramona they got more pop/melodic. When tanya donelly left the band to work on her own projects the following album, Red Heaven turned loud and harder to listen to, but the final two albums, University and Limbo, are beautifully noisy, strange and beautiful with great pop/rock hooks.
     I find it hard to believe that they weren't more popular as the songs are utterly brilliant. No wait, I guess that explains it, though Kristin Hersh's first solo album and Throwing Muses' University are very similar in feel, the former was quite a success and the latter not so much of one. Sigh. But I love Kristin Hersh's solo work, too. I want both. (Neile)

if you like belly, listen to throwing muses, tanya donelly's (lead singer of belly) former band. kristin hersh who leads throwing muses is SOOOOO wonderful. Throwing Muses are amazing, one of my all time fave bands. as for the sound, thing of a quirkier darker belly (which makes sense, as tanya donelly was in the band in the beginning, and learned a lot from kristin hersh musically), or a introspective intense version of The Breeders. it really is too bad that they never got the commercial success that they deserved.
     by the way, early Throwing Muses is notable, not just because tanya donelly (founding member of The Breeders, belly, and solo artist) is a part of the band, but also because Leslie Langston one of the most amazing bassists ever was in the band. she made me want to pick up the bass. check out House Tornado again, if listening to it for kristin hersh's guitar work isn't enough. it was a sad day when Leslie Langston decided she didn't want to be in Throwing Muses anymore. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

the best and most blindingly glorious recordings by Throwing Muses are their 4AD releases; the initial, self-titled album, the chains changed EP, and "Fish", their track on the 4AD compilation lonely is an eyesore (whence the album's title...): the bad, sad days for Ms. Hersh, by her own accounts, and not for the squeamish, perhaps, but Kristen and Tanya's voices and guitars were never so wild and tangled in their later Sire releases. of those later efforts, the real ramona is the one i listen to most often, along with Hips and Makers and star. but i do listen to them all.
     if you can find their self-titled debut, buy it. buy it twice. ditto for the live, very limited edition The Curse. Get The Real Ramona" and hunkpapa for sure, House Tornado maybe. skip Red Heaven until, um, until you don't have any other CDs to buy....
     note that Muses were much much more snarly than Kristin's solo work—their first album is a tangle of psychotic (er, quite literally so, in Kristin's case) guitars and groans. university is good. forget Red Heaven, and go for hunkpapa or The Real Ramona....
     a common complaint of mine: if Ms. Hersh and Donelly were male, they would be on lots of lists of best and most original guitar players (well, Kristin would be, for sure). hearing Kristin live at Maxwell's with a Strat and Fender Twin, was extraordinary. (bossert@suddensound.com)

this is the problem with the muses. nearly all of their albums are excellent. my favorite one is always the one i'm currently playing. when i'm not playing one though, it's a tossup between the eponymous first record, house tornado and the real ramona—the first is deranged, the second deceptive and the third delicious! (woj@smoe.org)

It's quite different from Kristin Hersh's solo efforts, a lot more rock oriented, but I like it. (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

My favorite Throwing Muses album is House Tornado followed closely by Hunkpapa, then the first one. (brni @ kappamaki . com)

I would say Throwing Muses have a sort of angular guitar sound with lots of unexpected turns in melody and tempo. My favorite of theirs is University, which is their second to last. By then, their sound was still far from mainstream pop, but much more accessible. If you want to try Throwing Muses out, I would suggest University or The Real Ramona. I think all of their CDs are wonderful, with the possible exception of Red Heaven which only has 2 or 3 songs I like. But I would ease myself into their earlier work. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

That's a good way to describe it. I'd also add that the band has two strong personalities in it—Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly (during the time Tanya was in the band). Kristin's influence is stronger, but there are definitely songs that have Tanya's stamp on them. So there is also some variety to their style depending on who's in the forefront. (jwermont@sonic.net)

Ah, Throwing Muses! I love 'em.... Started by Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly around the mid-'80s and kept going until sometime last year, when they went broke. They simply said that they couldn't afford to play as a band anymore, something I found extremely strange. For all the critical acclaim they obviously didn't sell all that many records, and it doesn't surprise me—their music was rough, edgy and uncomfortable. Extremely interesting, but far from "user friendly". My personal faves are: their first (Throwing Muses) the one that is being reissued as in a doghouse, Red Heaven from '92 and the one that preceeded it, The Real Ramona. The Real Ramona was, I think, their one attempt at more accessible, poppy sound and is notable for a couple of tracks where the rising influnce of Tanya Donelly as a songwriter can be observed (after this CD she left to pursue her solo career). I must admit their last two records: Limbo and University didn't do all that much for me. All the elements that made Throwing Muses were still there but they just didn't add up quite the same way.... (afries@zip.com.au)

Comments about live performance:

throwing muses continue to be one of those bands who never cease to amaze. three musicians of their high calibre on one stage are just plain frightening. yum! (woj@smoe.org)

A good show last night at the Middle East, and great to see the band back together (especially with Tanya who played about half the set with them)—though my ears are paying dearly for it today. Only downfall was that the sound really sucked at several points in the show—bass was just far too high in the mix and distorted out a lot of Kristin's vocals. But the band was intense, and it was a wall of sound from start to finish. Songs old and new. Kristin remains an enigma onstage—singing with such intensity but with a perpetual staid look and intense stare focused on the back of the room. (4/03, dlw@sympatico.ca)

Recommended first album:

My favourite Throwing Muses is now University; it used to be hunkpapa—either of these would be a good introduction, especially for those not used to noisy rock. (Neile)

University or The Real Ramona. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I'd also like to recommend hunkpapa, one of my personal favorites. My other favorite is their first album, which is now out as part of in a doghouse. (jwermont@sonic.net)

first time listeners should get The Real Ramona. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Recordings:


Throwing Muses

Release info:

1986—4AD—CAD607CD

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for alternative rock fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—lead guitar, lead singer
David Narcizo—drums, percussion
Tanya Donelly—guitars, percussion, vocals

Guest artists:

Ronnie Stone—additional guitar
Dave Knowles—additional keyboard

Produced by:

Gil Norton

Comments:

now available on in a doghouse

i don't care that it's 4AD import only, go get it. if you can find this, buy it. buy it twice. (bossert@suddensound.com)

None of their later albums have unseated my favorite: their first album. it's so powerful, so wild...nothing they've done since has approached that album for sheer intensity. chains changed is in the same vein though. if you're fond of kristin hersh's hips and makers, you might try throwing muses, but do not expect a quiet, haunting, acoustic collection of songs. expect a twisted, haunting, electric collection of songs. (woj@smoe.org)

I absolutely *love* this CD! It's my favorite of all Throwing Muses albums! It has a real intensity, and has lots of interesting time signatures and song structures (for example, a song will start out with one melody/rhythm/ structure, and then later veer off into another, and then finally a third section with yet musical "reality"—but it really works—it just sounds like that's the natural path for the song to take). (jwermont@sonic.net)


The Fat Skier EP

Release info:

1986—4AD (U.K.)/Sire Records (U.S.)—25640-4

Availability:

Harder to find in U.S.; rereleased on a U.K. version with House Tornado

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for alternative rock fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—vocals, guitars
Tanya Donelly—vocals, guitars, percussion
Leslie Langston—bass, cello, violin
David Narcizo—drums, percussion, vocals

Guest artists:

Gary Smith—slide guitar

Produced by:

Mark Van Hecke, except "Soul Soldier" produced by Gil Norton and Throwing Muses

Comments:

fantastic, but more of a collectors' item material really. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

House Tornado

Release info:

1988—Sire Records (U.S.)—9 25710-2

Availability:

Harder to find in U.S.; rereleased on a U.K. version with The Fat Skier

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for alternative rock fans

Group members:

Leslie Langston—bass buitars, backing vocals, percussion
Tanya Donelly—guitars, vocals, percussion
David Narcizo—drums, backing vocals, percussion
Kristin Hersh—guitars, vocals, piano

Guest artists:

Rich Gilbert—slide guitar

Produced by:

Gary "de Paree" Smith

Comments:

it's their best album far as i'm concerned. (woj@smoe.org)

House Tornado, their second album, is amazing, probably one of the most complex-sounding albums that i own, and not necessarily the first one that i would recommend. but well worth working up to. when Throwing Muses played live, they rarely played stuff off of that album. a couple of years back i read that someone went to a show and yelled for them to play something off of House Tornado. Kristin replied back "YOU play something off of House Tornado. that album is so fucking hard to play". crack me up. later on tour though, Kristin had added a song from it to the set list. (iflin@speakeasy.net)


hunkpapa

Release info:

1989—Sire Records (U.S.)—9 25855-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for alternative rock fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—guitar, vocals, piano
Tanya Donelly—guitars, vocals
Leslie Langston—bass, vocals
David Narcizo—drums, percussion, vocals

Guest artists:

Bernie Worrell—keyboards
Russ Gershon—tenor saxophone
Tom Halter—trumpet, flugelhorn
Russell Jewell—trombone
Guy Yarden—violin

Produced by:

Gary Smith

Comments:

It didn't grab me right away, but I grew to love it after repeated listening. The first half of the album is the best. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

with hunkpapa, a catchy punky pop album, closer in sound to the real ramona, this was their first album that Kristin intentionally marketed and wrote songs for to be a "hit." the completely catchy song "Dizzy" was written expressly to be marketed as a single (it did well in the college radio market, but never made a dent elsewhere). Kristin actually hates "Dizzy" and won't play it live. i think it is a great pop song though. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

This is the album that first decoded Throwing Muses for me—once I heard this their earlier work suddenly sounded like more than just noise to me. And this album is brilliant—I've been listening to it frequently since it first came out and it has never yet lost its freshness and life. (Neile)


Not Too Soon (single)

Release info:

1990—Sire (U.S.)—9 40135-2

Comments:

The "Not Too Soon" single features the great Tanya title track and a whizzer cover of The Beatles' "Cry, Baby, Cry". (bossert@suddensound.com)

The Real Ramona

Release info:

1991—Sire Records (U.S.)—9 26489-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for alternative rock fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—guitar, vocals
Tanya Donelly—guitar, vocals
Fred Abong—bass guitar
David Narcizo—drums

Produced by:

Dennis Herring

Comments:

A good first disc for the new listener. accessible, but still with the trademark swirling angular guitar sounds, Kristin Hersh's amazing stunning lyrics fantastic vocals, and signature complex song structures. the blend of Tanya Donelly's songs and vocal harmonizations add as well (this being her last album with them). (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Red Heaven

Release info:

1992—Sire Records (U.S.)—9 26897-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for alternative rock fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—drums and vocals
David Narcizo—drums and backing vocals

Guest artists:

Leslie Langston—bass
Bob Mould (Sugar)—guest vocal

Produced by:

Throwing Muses with Steve Boyer

Comments:

on the japanese import of red heaven there are an additional 10 or so tracks of just Kristin during throwing muses stuff, a live recording of one of her solo acoustic shows. this one in particular was recorded at maxwell's in hoboken. there was a limited edition of the uk release of red heaven which included these tracks (plus two others which didn't fit on the single japanese disc) on a bonus disc. it cost me a bit more but i think it was worth it. :). though i have stopped disliking red heaven, i still would not say that i like that one. there are a couple good songs on it, but, as a whole, it was and is a disappointment. (woj@smoe.org)

red heaven was more of a mainstream rock album, which a lot of people felt wasn't up to par with the rest of their stuff; in truth the album is wonderful, but must be taken as a slight anomaly compared to their more quirky albums. if you like throwing muses but don't own red heaven you should run out and get it now. it is a great album and definitely worth picking up. it's the first post-Tanya Donelly album; it is also the last album that Leslie Langston (queen of the bass) plays on—which means it is a must-have in my book. (iflin@speakeasy.net)


The Curse

Release info:

1992—4AD (U.K.)—TAD 2019

Availability:

U.K. (and limited?) release only

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Throwing Muses fans

Comments:

Recorded live at The Grand Theatre, Clapham, London, October 8th and 9th, 1992.

This is more of a Red Heaven take on their songs—noisy, rocky, where the lyrics and melodies are hidden under the sheer volume of the other instruments, but still wonderful. (Neile)


university

Release info:

1995—Sire Records (U.S.)—9 45796-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for alternative rock fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh
David Narcizo
Bernard Georges

Guest artists:

Jane Scarpantoni—cello
Lenny Kaye—vocals
Dyan Hersh Going—vocals
Ryder James O'Conell—vocals
Trina Shoemaker—backing vocals

Produced by:

Throwing Muses

Comments:

much improved from the red heaven fiasco though not as soul-shatteringly brilliant as either the real ramona or the self-titled album which blew my bone marrow to pluto. this album lives up the weirdness promised by "hooks in her head" and the power promised by that gig i witnessed at some time ago. i still think david narcizo needs to ditch the high hat and get back to basic drumming though. ;). university manages to tie together the straight-ahead rock of red heaven (one of the reasons that it was a disappointment) with the muses', well, muse: driving, twisty, intricate rhythms. (woj@smoe.org)

A wonderful album that may be my favourite Muses album. Great to know they can pull it off after the disappointment of Red Heaven. The whole album is a delight to listen to: catchy. Melodic, yet pushing the rock edge. (Neile)

Mmmm...I'm in heaven. For anyone who loved Kristin Hersh's solo album Hips and Makers, I highly recommend it. GO BUY THIS ALBUM! But, be forwarned, for those who have never heard Muses, only Kristin's recent album, this is not that marvellous primal voice over acoustic instruments, this is far louder.... It proves that Kristin Hersh can live in either medium. Of course, by nature of the project it isn't as intimate as her solo work, but by no means does it lack passion.
     The album is very strongly written, ranging from hard electric-driven rock to slightly more laidback sonic tales.... The drummer, David Narcizo, sounds as marvellous as ever, and Jane Scarpantoni, the cellist who played on Hips and Makers even appears on several tracks.... Oh, Muses are now back to a trio, with a new member Bernard Georges.... I'm going to go listen to it some more. oh boy (bounce, bounce). (ab580@leo.nmc.edu)

University continues to grow on me. it definitely makes a great followup to Ms. Hersh's Hips and Makers and Strings, and i find it a definite improvement to the lackluster Red Heaven. it's not nearly as wild and wonderfully weird as the good old days—particularly their stunning first (self-titled) album or the subsequent EPs (chains changed and the fat skier). it's a Lennon/McCartney thing: much as i like Kristen's solo/new Throwing Muses stuff and Tanya's The Breeders/Belly, none of it swoops and staggers as much as their work together did. (bossert@suddensound.com)

And Kristin Hersh produces, in Throwing Muses' second studio outing without Tanya Donelly, a better album than Tanya produced in her second album without Kristin Hersh. (Flame pre-emption: I do like Belly's King quite a bit. I'm just not at all certain it's better than Belly's first album, Star, and I'm quite certain University is better than it. In my opinion.) (pmcohen@voicenet.com)

They can still throw without Tanya Donelly. Maybe even better. It rocks. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

Kristin Hersh and co. knock the socks off yet again. Another incredible live show, too. (Meth@smoe.org)

it just doesn't reach the high end of this year's list. (uli@zoodle.robin.de)

University is the album that came after Kristin Hersh's first solo album, and which was to be (and alas wasn't) their breakthrough album. Kristin Hersh's solo album did so well, that this one's release was postponed so that Kristin Hersh could fully promote the album with a tour and all. University can be seen as a blend between Kristin Hersh's solo work, and a full Throwing Muses band album. there are parts of the album that are more sparse and introspective than anything previously done by Throwing Muses. and there are part that are just as dense and amazingly rich. (iflin@speakeasy.net)


limbo

Release info:

1996—Rykodisc/Throwing Music—RCD 10354

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for alternative rock fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh
David Narcizo
Bernard Georges

Guest artists:

Martin McCarrick—cello
Robert Rust—piano

Produced by:

Throwing Muses

Comments:

If I were making out a top ten list for the year, I'd rate Limbo right at the top. I'm still enthralled with this disc, and I love every single song on the album (including the hidden bonus track). I like it more than University and it's perhaps my favorite Throwing Muses album ever. Obviously it didn't click the same way with a lot of people, although many seemed to like it well enough. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

it did strike me as more polished than they have been in the past. (woj@smoe.org)

Wonderful—I like it nearly as much as University, which is saying a lot. This hasn't grabbed me quite as much as University did, but Kristin Hersh is still the goddess of alternative rock in my book. (Neile)

This will probably be my all time favorite Muses album. I had a chance to grovel in the dust in front of Mrs. Hersh, but I'm kinda too shy to do something like that. She really would deserve something like that. (onealien@mo.himolde.no)

Not quite as good as University, but pretty close. (mcurry@io.com)

My favourite remains University but this one is more "in control", more polished. The best album to introduce a friend to the Muses music in my opinion. (Yves.Denneulin@imag.fr)

Limbo, their last full band album, lacked a little bit i feel, but was a direct extension of University. a bit perkier and with some killer lead singles ("Ruthie's Knocking" is so damn catchy!) it is well worth checking out and is pretty accessible, if not completely mainstream in an alternapop sense. (iflin@speakeasy.net)


Live to Tape (live promo ep)

Release info:

1996—Rykodisc/Throwing Music—VRCD 0354

Availability:

Promo and limited release; now collector's item

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Throwing Muses fans

Comments:

Unfortunately, the sound quality of these songs isn't very great, otherwise these would be utter classics, and I would frantically be telling everyone to pay huge prices for this limited release. As it is, I still enjoy listening to it simply to get the flavour of the band's later concerts. (Neile)

in a doghouse

Release info:

1998—Rykodisc/Throwing Music—RCD 10377/78

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for alternative rock fans and essential for fans of the band

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—singing, guitars
Tanya Donelly—guitar, singing
Leslie Langston—bass
Bernard Georges—bass
David Narcizo—drums

Produced by:

Gil Norton, Gary Smith, David Narcizo

Comments:

A compilation of Throwing Muses (the self-titled debut album), Chains Changed EP, demos tracks from 1985, and tracks written in 1983 recorded in 1996 + the music video for "Fish".

The self-titled debut is as good as ever. It's been remastered, but I never really thought my import copy sounded bad, so I don't notice any difference. I like Chains Changed. I had never heard the EP before, but I had heard most of the songs from it in live or redone versions. It's nice to be able to hear the originals, which sort of form an extension to the first album.
     But the demos are the real jewels here. I think I like most of them better than the recorded versions. The only demo which I don't like as much as the later version is "And a She Wolf After the War." There is something about the way Kristin and Tanya's voices work together on the version from The Fat Skier that I love and that's missing in the demo.
     The final tracks are early unrecorded Muses songs that were recorded by the last Muses lineup. They are interesting, I guess, but I'm not as impressed by them as the other stuff on the 2 discs. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

listen to how young Kristin sounds. total pop punk. way way way before their time. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

I like it a lot. Leslie Langston is indeed the Queen of Bass. And I can't stop hitting "repeat" for "Reel." (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

Yes, they were great even when they were teenagers. Can this be fair? Anyway, rejoice that this music is more widely available. (Neile)

Re-issue of the year. Take the amazing Throwing Muses, add the equally amazing Chain Changed and throw in both The Doghouse Cassette and a few bonus tracks recorded by the last Throwing Muses lineup and what do you get? An astonishingly great double-CD. (mcurry@io.com)


Live in Providence

Release info:

2001—Throwing Music

Availability:

At shows

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Throwing Muses fans

Comments:

This limited release disc was recorded live at Club Baby Head in Providence in Winter 1992, which is roughly the same era as The Curse, their officially release live cd, but the sound on this one is so much livelier and less murky. I would recommend this one over that. I also think I like the song selections better. (Neile)

Throwing Muses

Release info:

2003—4AD—CAD 2301 CD

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Throwing Muses fans

Group members:

Kristin Hersh—guitars, vocals
Bernanrd Geoerges—bass
David Narcizo—drums

Guest artists:

Tanya Donelly (special guest, prodigal muse)--backing vocals

Produced by:

Throwing Muses

Comments:

Having listened to the new Throwing Muses a few more times, it strikes me as being somewhat a return to their older style. So far I'm not as impressed with it as I was with University or Limbo; it's kind of muddy and indistinct by comparison. Not that it is bad, just less immediately catchy. As most Throwing Muses and Kristin Hersh solo albums have been slow-growers for me, I'm willing to give it some more time. (stevev@hexadecimal.uoregon.edu)

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