Throwing Muses: Sun Racket (Fire) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, January 25th, 2021  

Throwing Muses

Sun Racket


Sep 04, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Throwing Muses somewhat fittingly return with 10 near-perfect tracks to mark their 10th studio album. Sun Racket is all that you’d want from a Throwing Muses album and after a career spanning almost 40 years (30 years with this iteration of Kristin Hersh, David Narcizo, and Bernard Georges)—this is an album that is on a par with their very best work.    

It’s also their first album in seven years, since 2013’s Purgatory/Paradise, and as ever there is that visceral tension between light and shade, loud and quiet, joy and anguish which have all been Kristin Hersh’s muses since she began songwriting back in the early ’80s. In the past she’s claimed that she doesn’t write songs in the traditional sense, it’s more a case of they “write her.” It appears this has been the process in crafting Sun Racket, with Hersh being the conduit for this mystical musical alchemy and in a press release she describes the process thus: “Turns out we didn’t have to do much. Sun Racket knew what it was doing and pushed us aside, which is always best. After 30 years of playing together, we trust each other implicitly but we trust the music more.”  

In any other artist, this off-kilter “otherness” might be seen as some sort of obfuscation or artistic contrivance, but with Hersh, you know this is her truth. Her songs are visceral and real. Sun Racket is another work of dark warped genius replete with surreal humor, disturbing imagery, and Hersh’s always compelling stream-of-consciousness lyricism. Her voice can switch from a sinister whisper in your ear to an anguished howl in a heartbeat as Throwing Muses return to the life, and quite possibly the death, aquatic. Indeed water and its mystical literary symbolism is something Hersh has often referenced throughout her career, whether it be to cleanse and revive or to suffocate and engulf.        

The album kicks off with the brutal throb of “Dark Blue” with Hersh tearing sonic chunks out of her guitar as she sings with menace “If I were under you/I’d be underwater” while guitars swirl and crash around her. There aren’t many lyricists who could reimage Queen’s flamboyant former frontman as a goldfish in a toilet in the way she does on “Bywater”—“Whose goldfish in the toilet?/Don’t flush’s Freddie Mercury/shining orange/unhinged/a mustached amputee heading out to sea.”    

The atmospheric, bittersweet “Maria Laguna” is classic Muses with a twist in the tale, while “Bo Diddley Bridge” is a riff-heavy stomper that transforms to an almost slow-mo cinematic spiralling lucid dream, with the bridge collapsing as Hersh repeats the lyrics in an almost trance-like state—“The bridge collapsing/the water winning” and ends with “Who’s swimming?/Is it us?”    

“Frosting” combines scything guitars with Hersh’s blistered vocal bleeding into a track that builds into a searing blazing crescendo, and is quite magnificent. After almost four decades in the game, the world has changed beyond recognition yet Throwing Muses and Hersh haven’t really changed their style or approach. Great songwriting remains great songwriting and Throwing Muses have lost none of their visceral power or their ability to electrify and agitate the listener. They are still creating music on their own terms and Sun Racket is an admirable and worthy addition to their formidable cannon. They remain as honest, real, intense, and relevant as ever. (      

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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