Muses in 1986. It was difficult listening, with little obvious commercial potential outside the college audience, but was widely hailed as the emergence of an important new voice in American underground rock. With their fifth LP, The Real Ramona, they have finally made an album that their record company, the American giant Sire (they are on 4AD in Britain), feel comfortable putting their weight behind. It doesn’t feel any different to Hersh, though: ‘Every time we make a record, I think, well, this is the time we’ve sold out — now we’ve really done it! I went back and listened to The Fat Skier and I thought, My God, we were fucked up! There’s, like, birdcalls coming out in the middle of a song, and I thought, oh, this is our rock song, it’s got a chorus!’
For a time, Kristin Hersh loved the word ‘housewife’. After giving birth to Dylan, feeling that she had gone from 18 to 35 overnight, the cyclical nature of motherhood and housekeeping bewitched her. Doing the same things over and over again, but returning to them on a different level each time, became a fascination — it was the opposite of the upward path with no U-turns that is the accepted meaningful life in Western society. The idea that that kind of domestic life could be dealt with in the lyrics of rock songs, albeit in their inimitable style, set Throwing Muses further apart from the predominantly male crowd.
‘People ask me questions about feminism,’ she says, ‘or whether we’re a female band, and I certainly don’t think of us that way, but I could be wrong. I would say all men, all women. have the male and the feminine, and they’re both very strong; but maybe we’re a more appropriate band to be expressing the feminine than U2. say, so maybe I should stop saying we’re not a female band. Seventy-five per cent of college women have eating disorders. I still think they’re a feminine thing, but that has nothing to do with whether a person is male or female,just. . .whateverit is, afeminine god, a female spirit, it’s something that’s still under wraps. It’s something that people still don’t know how to talk about. People don’t know how to talk about where beauty fits in, they don’t know where children fit in, they don’t know whether “homemaker” is a good or a bad thing.’
Of course, Throwing Muses are not working in a field where such questions are usually addressed.
‘Yeah, that’s true, and there are not many women to hold up as representations of women in music. Women are not the way they are in real life. They’re sex kittens, they’re macho, they‘re wimpy or real flighty. And I don’t think we knew how to pretend to be anything else. I had no ideal was supposed to pretend to be a sex kitten — | or anything else! And I didn’t know how to l do it, and neither did Tanya. We knew i nothing but how we are in real life, and the | music came from that. We’re very lucky.’
Throwing Muses play Calton Studios, Edinburgh on Friday I and The Mayfair, Glasgow on Saturday 2. The Real Ramona is on 4A D Records.
The List 22 February — 7 March l‘)9l 7