There's Light, There's Love
Throwing Muses, Glasgow Queen Margaret Union, 23rd March 2003

This couldn't, surely, be happening? Does it mean to all these people, gathered in a dingy QMU which for some reason seems to have halved in size since my previous visit, drinking pints and looking old, what it means to me? Pet Sounds plays repeatedly as a drawn out intro tape, and there are precious few bands who can play that before they come on and not get upstaged. To my blinkered mind, which doesn't change half as often as it ought - but which on the flipside is grounded rock solid in a love so true - Throwing Muses could do it, The Pastels could do it. Maybe Acid Mothers could do it (if only Kawabata would play gently along). Who are all playing in Glasgow within a month of each other. Fuck Iraq: these are momentous times (told you I was blinkered).

Eventually Pet Sounds grinds to its third halt and the Muses amble on, straight outta 1992. Kristin wearing if I remember right a blue hippy top of questionable taste and black hair, David in a T-shirt and thick black specs, mooching in the back, what're you all cheering for I just want to play. Bernard to the left with a big smile and muscles. They go straight into ´Furious', which is weird, because the first time I saw them, in 1992, when they were the loudest thing I'd ever heard, and standing right in front of the speaker stack left me practically deaf for a week, this was how they'd started, too. Except then with blonde hair, and still doing the head-from-side-to-side thing as she sang. Where's that gone? I used to like that.

Walking to the car in the dark streets of recently tourist-bombed Warrington, after seeing Kristin do Hips and Makers live, supported by Vic Chesnutt (whose best song is still Animals That Swim's ´Vic'), with a red ´KH' sticker to put on my guitar, slightly let down. She hadn't done ´Delicate Cutters'. ´If you'd written the best acoustic song there was, and you were playing an acoustic show, wouldn't you play it?' I griped to Tim, who saw immediately that the sensible course was to agree. I had an idea that Kristin had a ´Delicate Cutters' guitar - round backed, battered, not one of those sponsored-by-Collings jobs - on which she played only that song. That first gig, after the stupidly loud (for stupidly positioned me) Muses set, she did a solo encore of ´Delicate Cutters' on the guitar I've just described. A few years later, at the Warrington gig, it sat behind her in an open guitar case as she played her pretty songs and told an anecdote about bubble wrap in a lift, but she never picked it up.

I have no problem with Kristin's pretty songs. For years I did, thought she was selling out, giving less, when later records would just be records with tunes and riffs and almost-nonsense words which didn't reduce me to tears for the duration. I'd listen to Hips and Makers and think ´The Letter' and ´Close Your Eyes', the songs which wrenched out your guts and spread them up the walls, were the only ones that mattered. Kristin said they were ´out of place', ´too dark', and all I could think was ´No! Give us more!' She was right, though: they completely capsized the record, and although they are the best things on it, it would've been better off without them.

Which is how I managed to not fall out of love with Throwing Muses the other night, in a set which by and large ignored the dark stuff, and drew instead on their '90s LPs Red Heaven, University and Limbo, and even went easy on the first of these three. Although the sound was more Red Heaven than anything else. Jeez, this recording I made's not so good - I'm surprised the microphone still works, given the pounding it took from David's drums. As immense as ever. And which itself posed a question: are you gonna stand there studiously preserving for posterity, listening out for affecting wordplays, or are you going to give in to this gigantic sound and DANCE, like the sweaty men just in front of you? DANCE as in MOSH it added, for clarification. It was the only way.

The songs, after a while, became indistinguishable - perhaps because, not having heard the new LP yet, I didn't know a fair few of them (Kristin's songs always did need a gestation period), but they didn't stop rocking, feeling good to jump to. And on they played, having the time of their lives (is it too much to hope that they'll keep doing this? Fondly received tours, unexpected albums just when you thought...), through the sunnier side of their catalogue (if you agree with Old Me that this is sellout stuff, you gotta lock yourself in a room with Limbo for a week, and just see if you don't come out smiling), until it's time to go... and encore with jaw-dropping heart-thumping entrail-kneading ´Vicky's Box' and ´Mania' back to back, and sure they're the best songs of the set, but haven't you been listening? That's not all there is to it. There's other stuff, there's Throwing Muses, The Pastels, Acid Mothers, there's light, there's love. Kristin, David, Bernard, I love you. Come back soon.

© 2003 Chris Fox


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