Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Throwing Muses, Oran Mor, Glasgow, 7th November

This is where I came in. That 2003 show seems a strange one to have written about, in retrospect, given that it was one of those occasions when you couldn’t actually hear the songs because they were so loud. That also happened when I saw Throwing Muses for the first time, in 1992. The opening chords to ‘Furious’ were fine, then the drums piled in and it was more or less a white-out for the duration. But I still treasure the memory of that ear-blasting: the dingy Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton, as un-glamourous a venue as you’ll find, offering up something outside glamour, mysterious, cold, real. Unrest were the support, and they were good, although I never followed up that lead. Other great gigs I saw there featured Madder Rose, The Sundays (Harriet with a cold, natch), Cocteau Twins, My Life Story (so Pop as to excite sneers, but all the more enjoyable for that), Buzzcocks, Primal Scream, Belly (smoke machine on full blast for ‘Trust in Me’). Not the most rockin’ list, possibly, but no-one else I’ve seen has deliberately blurred their sound in quite that way, not with controlled distortion but with PA overload. ‘A very emotional sound’, reckoned Andy, maybe that’s it. They did it again last night, but not too much; you could mostly make out tunes, if not words (not a problem if you know them all already). And this time the blur worked in their favour, an hour and a half passed in the blink of an eye.

They kicked off with ‘Soul Soldier’, of all the amazing ways they had at their disposal. Plunging straight into the storm. Then ‘Shimmer’ (I think I may actually come around to University one of these days), and relatively early on, ‘Hate My Way’. Balanced by ‘Vicky’s Box’ towards the end of the set. At the time my mind was paragraphs, which had gone by this morning, but the gist was ‘What is this?’, because the things those songs do to my insides are not within the gift of any other music. Chris objected afterwards that people had punched the air to ‘Hate My Way’, which I agree seems an inappropriately celebratory reaction. What’s to celebrate – the slide away from coping, the skirting of a suicidal impulse? Is it that the air punchers identify with those feelings and are glad that someone has found a way to make them as solid as song? Are they applauding Kristin’s struggle, or goading her into bleeding so they don’t have to? I guess it can help to wrap your troubles in songs, send them away. Another possibility, given that these concerts celebrate 25 years of Throwing Muses, is nostalgia for the hurt of adolescence or early adulthood – a time when they at least felt something. I say ‘they’, I mean ‘we’. Though I didn’t punch the air, I just stood still and cried, let the song pull me apart so I could be new again. It would have been a bit of a downer if everyone had done that. Kristin, it should be said, seemed to enjoy the big reaction, giggling in surprise during the opening lines. ‘That song is much less sad when it sounds like I have a lot of friends,’ she mused. ‘It’s supposed to be a loser’s song.’
Heckler: I bet you weren’t laughing when you wrote it.
Kristin: I don’t remember writing it but I bet I wasn’t.
Another heckler asked ‘Where’s Tanya?’, which must happen all the time, but Kristin had the put-down off pat: ‘I sold her’.

The set galloped past – ‘Tar Kissers’ (which reminded me, not for the first time, of The Modern Lovers’ ‘Egyptian Reggae’), ‘Limbo’, ‘Garoux des Larmes’, ‘Say Goodbye’. For encores we got ‘Fish’, ‘Pearl’, ‘Devil’s Roof’, ‘Mania’. At the end Mike turned around and didn’t say anything, but looked blissfully happy. We were a contented crowd, we got our fill of manic pop thrills. And although this was a greatest hits set to go with the current Anthology compilation (for sale, weirdly, on USB sticks at the merch stall – no CDs), we know this isn’t just about nostalgia, because of what’s coming next: a monster 38-track album of new material. Good grief, it takes me long enough to get to grips with 12 new Kristin songs at a time. But of course we’ll follow you, Throwing Muses, no matter how far. It is great to have you back.


Anonymous said...

Nailed it Chris! Blissfully happy, that was me.

Chris said...

It was good to see! An amazing show, neither up nor down but somehow better than both.

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