CD review: Throwing Muses’ ‘Purgatory/Paradise’

November 23, 2013 

Throwing Muses’ “Purgatory/Paradise”

  • Alternative rock Throwing Muses Purgatory/Paradise

A fresh return in multimedia

Reunions and comebacks can feel like cash grabs, like new bursts of inspiration, like flat repetitions of what came before. Hearing the first album in 10 years from Throwing Muses, a listener might be inclined to peg “Purgatory/Paradise” with one of those too-easy labels, especially because it feels like it’s been way longer than a decade since Kristin Hersh and company gave us new tunes. And it should feel like a return, a reunion, because it also comes on the heels of 2011’s two-disc “Anthology.”

But here’s the thing: It doesn’t feel like a reunion. Not at all.

Nor does it feel like a triumphant return, though it does feel triumphant. Leave it to the ever-challenging, ever-changing Throwing Muses to take 10 years off and then hit us with this, a multimedia piece that couples a book of lyrics, prose and photographs with the band’s most unruly, wide-open record to date. It’s a set that comprises 32 songs and nearly 70 minutes. Some moments are shards, cutting quick and slipping away, others are fully formed musical moments, full of the band’s signature buzzing and shadowy layers. For her part, Hersh’s voice has aged beautifully, growing into its scuffed edges, coming across as equal parts brash and vulnerable. Behind her Dave Narcizo and Bernard Gorges make a rattling yet steady foundation for her jangling guitars, angular hooks and that voice. There’s enough distance here you almost forget about Tanya Donelly, about “University” or “The Real Ramona,” or any other part of the band’s earlier triumphant permutations. Almost. Except Throwing Muses retains the best parts of their identity here by twisting them into something fresh and expansive.

Matthew Fiander,

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