I really, really like the Throwing Muses.
Or, safer to say, and more truthful, I really, really like the song you probably have all heard before, “Not Too Soon.” And this Audible Ear would more correctly be determined a paean to those Throwing Muses’ singles that I can’t get out of my head. Such as this song, “Snakeface.”
Back when Iomega zip drives were all the rage, I got one from my brother as well as a bunch of his old zip disks. On one of those disks was a bunch of random songs, including several from the Throwing Muses’ album University, including “Snakeface.” Before this, I’d only ever known them through “Not Too Soon” which I think I heard on one of my brother’s Just Say Yes music compilations.
This song has a gentle menace running through it that is at odds with the tone of the song, but perfectly in tune with the rough voice of Kristin Hersh. There’s the shaking of the maracas in the background that come off like a rattler’s warning. The low bass that counters Kristin’s voice and underlines the implication that this song is about sex and not necessarily the best kind (though not necessarily the worst, either).
Compare that with “Counting Backwards”, a song that was one of the Throwing Muses’ few hit singles.
“Counting Backwards” has a very static feel. Even the extended guitar that injects energy into the song comes off as a drone more than a wild ride. Hersh’s voice here doesn’t help, either, as most of the lyrics sludge into one another (except for the monotonous “Don’t remember”).
Pretty much all of the songs on The Real Ramona follow the lead of “Counting Backwards”. I have a hard time differentiating the songs from one another, and listening to the album in one go is an exercise in time travel. I look to the clock from the page I’m working on and thirty minutes have passed, but I’ve no memory of any of the songs’ beginnings or endings.
Except when we come to “Not Too Soon”, a song which is so far from true on this album that it could be a track recorded by a complete different band and somehow slipped onto the CD by mistake. It’s high energy and barrels forward as though shot from a cannon (of the barrel-shooting kind).
I bought The Real Ramona in the hopes that the rest of the album would live up to the promise of “Not Too Soon”, but I found that song the exception from a band I didn’t recognize, even when they told me their name. In some way it’s like how singles that become hits on the radio can spur purchase of a band’s album, even though that song may only be the most mainstream of what they’ve produced. In this case, Throwing Muses was a success both before and after “Not Too Soon” (which wasn’t one of their charted singles, by the way) and a plethora of fans.
To my chagrin, after listening to The Real Ramona I discovered I wasn’t one of them.
To prove my point, a video of the honored song that I will, I promise, never stop loving. (An admittedly bad video. Notice her walking away when she sings “couldn’t stop walking away.”)