Review: ‘50 Foot Wave’

In sharp contrast to many of her post-punk peers, Kristin Hersh isn't mellowing with age. In fact, the former leader of Throwing Muses actually seems to be getting louder with the passage of time -- a boon to her craft, judging by this tinnitus-be-damned club perf.

In sharp contrast to many of her post-punk peers, Kristin Hersh isn’t mellowing with age. In fact, the former leader of Throwing Muses actually seems to be getting louder with the passage of time — a boon to her craft, judging by this tinnitus-be-damned club perf.

50 Foot Wave, which also features former Muses bassist Bernard Georges, is far and away the most aggressive vehicle Hersh has ever piloted, rife with razor-edged riffs and prone to tumultuous jams. The New England-based singer-songwriter strafed the songs — a handful of which came from the band’s self-titled debut EP — with vocalizations so raw that listeners’ hands seemed to instinctively protect their own throats.

That directness manifested itself in diverse ways, generating a shout-along to the stop-start “Clara Bow,” which pitched along with a Pixies-ish wooziness, and spawning a breathless claustrophobia for “Long Painting” and “El Dorado.”

The sinewy central riff of “Glory Weed” wouldn’t be out of place on a Link Wray record, but the radical dynamic shifts — including Hersh’s alternately cooing and cataclysmic delivery — were straight outta art punk circa 1994. Hersh retained the fever-pitch approach by segueing into one of the band’s most straightforwardly punky offerings, the breakneck “Lavender.”

A few of the trio’s songs revisited the ghosts of Throwing Muses past, most notably an encore version of “Dog Days,” on which Hersh split a thicket of guitar with shuddering declamations along the lines of “don’t touch me, I don’t know where you’ve been.” But at almost every turn, she seemed bent on cutting her ties to the past, rather than pulling them in a new direction — a risky choice that proved rewarding.

50 Foot Wave

Mercury Lounge, New York City; 199 capacity; $12

Production

Presented inhouse. Reviewed May 13, 2004.

Cast

Band: Kristin Hersh, Bernard Georges, Rob Ahlers.
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