tue 03/10/2023

Album: Kristin Hersh - Clear Pond Road | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Kristin Hersh - Clear Pond Road

Album: Kristin Hersh - Clear Pond Road

Alt-rock tropes abide and become something much more in the unfolding career of the Throwing Muse

'There are points where her voice is just slightly deeper or rawer'

Kristin Hersh’s voice, it transpires, is ageless. In the 80s when Throwing Muses broke through, she hit a particular combination of tones – blurring boundaries between harsh and smooth, melodic and discordant, trad and weird – that became vastly influential.

Along with the likes of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Pixies’s Kim Deal, she not only reconfigured the sense of what the female voice was in rock music, but helped codify singing styles for men and women vocalists in grunge and alt-rock ever after.

Later, as the Muses and her solo work evolved, she brought out more historical undercurrents – her 1994 cover of “When the Levee Breaks” in particular shooting lines of connection back through classic rock into the old, weird America – but that voice, that tone, that she created for herself has remained remarkably stable to today. On this, her 12th solo album, there are points where her voice is just slightly deeper or rawer, but really she started out neither old nor young, and she’s neither old nor young now.

It’s a wonderful record. Lyrics, as ever, are dreamlike yet anchored in material reality of times and places, full of horror and hope, and the music too echoes with decades’ worth of experience and influence, but is always focused in its purpose in the moment. The instrumentation and production are very trad rock in many ways, but there’s always some use of the studio that presses elemental emotional buttons rather than being simply referential: the processed bass at the start of “Constance Street” which feels almost electronic, the fearsome attack of the acoustic strum of “Eyeshine”.

Hersh seemingly becomes self-referential regarding this sonic invention in “Thank You Corner Blight” with her repetitions of “thank you sound” surrounded by cello, tambourine, bravura use of reverb and tempo shifts – all drawing you into something as fresh, as mind-bending as any avant-garde sound art, even as it channels all those older rock, punk, folk and other more indefinable past streams. Like her near contemporary in Eighties alternative rock J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr, Hersh has parlayed subcultural innovations – and sometimes abyssal bleakness – Into something with incredible longevity, depth and beauty.

@joemuggs

Listen to "Ms Haha":

Lyrics, as ever, are dreamlike yet anchored in material reality of times and places, full of horror and hope

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters