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Chart Chat Album Review : Throwing Muses – ‘Purgatory / Paradise’ (29.10.13)

Chart Chat Album Review : Throwing Muses – ‘Purgatory / Paradise’ (29.10.13)

Purgatory / Paradise is indeed a magnificent package.  Not only is it a 32 track CD, but it is also a 64 page book complete with full lyrics, exclusive photos and short essays on each track written by Kristin herself.  The owner of the CD / book also gets access to downloads including a full instrumental version of the album and a commentary track from Kristin and David. What more could you ask for?

This is a very personal record to both the band and their fans.  Nicknamed “Strange Angels”, the fans make regular contributions which fund the recording sessions of Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave and Kristin’s solo material.  Each is thanked by name at the back of the booklet (my name is among them!) and those who have contributed for long enough will have heard versions of many of the tracks included here.   The benefit of being a “Strange Angel” is being ahead of the game as subscribers already have access to many tracks from the ‘Spark Meet Gasoline’ project which is likely to form the backbone of the new Kristin Hersh solo album. Details of how to become a Strange Angel can be found here

I have loved the Muses since discovering them in the late 1980’s and am delighted to be reviewing their first album in a decade.  In fact it is almost two years to the day since I saw them live at Shepherds Bush Empire where they played a career spanning set in support of their ‘Anthology’ collection – happy memories! There are not many new releases which genuinely excite me but once this dropped onto my doormat I was desperate to put it on my CD player to see just how it sounded from start to finish.  Now to go through all 32 tracks one by one would take me far too long, so I will concentrate on the highlights (of which there are many).  

‘Morning Birds’ is the first of those with the lyrics “morning birds screamed all night / if there was just a little light left  / something to grow into panic”.  The musical arrangement is simple but effective, a feature present throughout the album.  Track four ‘Sunray Venus’ picks up the mantle with Kristin singing “sunray venus crushed underfoot and kisses all around / leaving that is limbo / hell I remember you”.  It’s certainly a track that you want to return to after the first listen of the album from start to finish.

‘Opiates’ fades in and the bassline sticks in your head immediately telling tales of “standing with a bulging first of nickels for the parking meter” while ‘Triangle Quantico’ is over too quickly, clocking in at just 75 seconds. Conversely ‘Slippershell’ is the album’s longest track, stopping just 13 seconds short of a full five minutes yet for me it’s glory is promptly stolen by ‘Bluff’ which is 61 seconds of greatness. 

‘Milan’ is for me the album’s crowning glory.  Haunting, and beautiful but building to an uptempo tune before closing on a slower note again.  It will sit among Muses classics such as ‘Dio’, ‘Bea’, ‘Cry Baby Cry’, ‘Firepile’ and ‘Fish’. The lyrics cite New Orleans, a city which Kristin describes as “an island or sorts” in the accompanying commentary. 

‘Dripping Trees’ appears in two parts, but that doesn’t count against it. ‘Clarks Nutcracker’ is worthy of a mention purely for its title while ‘Glass Cats’ is a fitting way to bring the album to its close. 

That is by no means an exhaustive list of the tracks and each fan will have their own favourite after a couple of listens. In conclusion the album is classic Muses, and with the fans already being aware of many of these tracks they are surely onto a winner.  If you’re only after eight minute epics you are in the wrong place with just six of the tracks clocking in at over three minutes long.  However it was difficult to narrow the initial set of demos down to a definitive tracklisting and so even three tracks who run less than a minute get a look in.

If you own any of their previous albums then you should add this to your collection. Let’s hope it’s not another ten years before the next album arrives. 


Ian Anderson (@ChartChatUK)


1 November, 2013 - Posted by | ChartChat

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