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Thursday Three: The college years pt. 1: Kristin, Kim and Tanya.

July 15, 2010

I would say that the bulk of my memories from college are related to music. I was in college from 1992-1997 and it seemed like amazing music was popping up in my life every other second and I was consuming music like it was my job. So I’m dedicating these next few Thursday Three posts to cataloging and remembering some of those beloved musical encounters from my college years – many of which have endured and live on in my heart/ears to this day. For the first part I will be focusing on three bands I could not get enough of as I was entering my freshman year: Throwing Muses, The Breeders and Belly.

Throwing Muses – “Fish”: Throwing Muses were a total game-changer band for me. I discovered the Muses when I was about 15 or 16 years old. The most adventurous music I was listening to at the time was Siouxsie & the Banshees – an amazing band to be sure and one I still cherish to this day – when I read a review of a Throwing Muses live show wherein the author mentioned Kristin Hersh’s guitar being pushed forward by her swollen, pregnant belly while she wailed like a possessed woman, her head weaving like a snake in thrall by a charmer. I had never read anything like this in my life describing a band or singer. I had to know/hear more! I had my Mom drive me to several record stores until I got a hold of Hunkpapa on cassette. This would later become one of my less loved TM albums but it was like the Throwing Muses gateway drug for me. Once I found out more albums I had! to! have! them! I had never heard music like this before. It was sonically oblique yet completely sticking in my head like a pop song;  lyrically obtuse yet incredibly resonant on an emotional level. And Kristin Hersh was like no other musician I’d encountered before (or have encountered since). By the time I started my freshman year of college I had amassed a good portion of Throwing Muses’ back catalog and was far more fixated on their early work than their current output and was particularly thrilled when I obtained this semi-rare track from a hard-to-find 4AD records compilation Lonely Is An Eyesore, the title of which comes from the very lyrics to this song.

The Breeders – “Hellbound”: I was completely and totally obsessed with Pod, the debut album from the original lineup of The Breeders. It kind of turned my world on its ear, musically, even after being exposed to more unusual, edgy stuff from Throwing Muses. I think it was the sparseness and minimalism thanks to Steve Albini‘s production. It was also the raspy delight of Kim Deal’s voice mixed with the alien coo of Tanya Donelly’s (and a bit of British archness from Josephine Wiggs thrown in for good measure). But it totally captivated me and Pod remains one of my most favorite albums of all time. It became a ritual for me to play it whenever I moved into a new dorm room on campus and later on into a new apartment. There was never quite as perfect a release from The Breeders, even though I enjoyed the follow-ups to varying degrees. But there was magic in the combination of Kim Deal and Tanya Donelly and that magic was never quite recaptured in subsequent lineups. Apologies for the out of-sync-ness of this video. But it’s virtually impossible to find anything from this era of the band! Luckily, “Hellbound” is one of my most favorite tracks off of Pod and they made a totally, Kim Deal-ishly weird video for it!

Belly – “Slow Dog”: Ah, Belly. What an anomaly they were. Coming from the awkward, avant-rocking days of Throwing Muses, through the slightly-more-in-the-spotlight days of The Breeders, Tanya Donelly surprised the world and herself by starting a band that kind of blew her musical past out of the water in terms of attention and acclaim. Although Belly only lasted for a relatively brief 5 years, they managed to garner international attention, Grammy nominations and a cover of Rolling Stone magazine. I once had the fantastic fortune of meeting Ms. Donelly on my very last day at a music-centric dot com in New York City. My friend and co-worker Dave was interviewing her about her then upcoming solo album Beautysleep. She was a totally unpretentious, wonderful woman who talked to me like I was a musician peer of hers and about how Belly was an amazing, difficult time and totally, completely alien to 99% of her experience as a working musician and not at all what her goals were in terms of the fame parts. Belly was first hitting the scene as I started college and I scarfed up their import EPs and their first album with a quickness. I personally think Belly represents Tanya Donelly’s best work and it is still what I return to the most when I am listening to anything Tanya-centric. While I love a great many Belly songs, “Slow Dog” was on repeat so much during my college years it is possible I could play the entire song from memory if I had all of the instruments in front of me!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2010 9:29 am

    Thanks for posting these. I have a couple Throwing Muses albums, but I’ve never heard “Fish” before. Kristin Hersh is a fantastic, if too often underrated, songwriter.

  2. July 15, 2010 11:48 am

    Wasn’t yesterday Tanya’s birthday? Make sure to check out Kristin’s new album/book, Crooked, when it hits outlets next week. Superlative solo work from a very prescient artist.

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  1. Thursday Three: The college years pts. 2: There’s a riot going on! « Love is the Slug

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