After being hit by a car as a teenager and suffering double concussion, Kristen Hersh's relationship with music changed for ever. The noises in her head demanded release.
In her autobiography, Paradoxical Undressing, she writes "A song lives across time as an overarching impression of sensory input, seeing it all happening at once, racing through stories like a fearless kid on a bicycle, narrating his own skin."
The music of Throwing Muses has therefore never been tailored for mainstream consumption. Whether as part of this band or as a solo artist, Hersh has forged a path that often borders of the self destructive without any apparent impetus towards producing sterile sellable product.
They have never aspired to be a Nirvana or a REM. They started as a cult band and have remained that way throughout a career that now, amazingly, spans almost four decades.
Their tenth studio is a belated follow up to 2013’s ‘Purgatory/Paradise’; a 32 track, 67 minute blast of nervous energy. With a mere ten tracks and a running time of just 32 minutes, 'Sun Racket' is ,on the surface at least, a more modest and disciplined affair. But the crunching guitars, pounding drums and driving bass are certainly not designed to evoke radio friendly mood pieces and there's nothing that sounds remotely mellow or laid back here.
Hersh sounds as wonderfully unhinged as ever with obtuse lyrics that somehow manage to sound personal despite having no coherent narrative structure. The music contains two disparate sonic vocabularies, juxtaposing heavy noise with more delicate moments
In Upstairs Dan she conjures up the surreal image of "helicoptering rabbits" while in Kay Catherine she sings of "sunshine holding your laugh in the air."
If there's a theme, the songs seem to reflect upon conflicting states of sobriety and drunkenness prompting thoughts of heaven versus hell. But then again, perhaps not. Make what you will of Freddie Mercury as "a mustached amputee, heading out to sea" in the relatively subdued Bywater.
The muddy grunge of Dark Blue, Bo Diddley Bridge and St. Charles make these the most striking tracks but all these work best in the context of the album as a whole.
The longest and best track is Frosting, an accessible yet brooding piece that perfectly matches the wintry imagery of the promotional video. It presents the recurring thought that "in heaven maybe they don't call you crazy",
In her bio, Hersh wrote "our songs don’t meander, they run" and its good to report that the momentum of Throwing Muses remains thrillingly intact while still leaving the listener deliciously disorientated.