Throwing Muses are one of the most underrated bands around today. It's a shame, really, given that are ignored in favour of the so-called alternative bands, even though they are more talented and more alternative than many of the bands that fall under that category. Unlike many bands today which rely on three-chord songs drenched with guitar-oriented noise (which, frankly, is beginning to wear thin), the Muses put out intricate music, with odd time changes and off-beat, but yet catchy, melodies. It was no surprise then that they put on one of the tightest and most passionate shows I've seen at the 9:30 club in DC.
The Muses are spear-headed by Kristin Hersh, who writes most of their stuff these days. It is her vision that is expressed in their songs and when hearing the albums and reading the lyrics it comes off dark, scary, and intense. Live, it proves to be a very cathartic experience. The music is syncopated, but poppy and melodic. Hersh's vocals are, I can't find a better word to describe this, erotic. I've always been a big fan of her vocals, through the early Muses albums to her solo efforts, and I thought it translated well live, even given the poor acoustics of the 9:30 club. Hersh's guitar work was minimalistic, accomplished, and unique. Dave Narico, one of the more underrated drummers out there today, was in fine form, as was new bassist Bernard Georges. The keyboards provided a nice touch to the show.
The first half of their set consisted of songs mostly from their latest University album. This included songs like Furious, Bright Yellow Gun, Hazing, Shimmer, Crabtown, No Way in Hell, That's All You Wanted, Counting Backwards, Fever Few, and Two Steps. Hersh joked earlier: "When you hear us striking random chords, you'll know we're playing new stuff. This should be sometime during the middle." The second half was devoted to playing entirely new songs, all of which could've been gathered together to form a new album. Most of the new stuff sounded pretty good on a first listen.
The Muses have a long history behind them. I think many will agree that their first album released in 1986 remains one of their finest. Following the release of The Real Ramona, their fifth and most "mainstream" album to date, step-sister Tanya Donelly has left to co-found the Breeders and subsequently, Belly. From the looks of it, it appears they're on a roll and University is just the beginning. According to rumours, they'll be leaving their major label Sire records and releasing stuff with an indie. If the new stuff sounds as good on record as it did live, be sure to keep an eye out for this release.
Air Miami opened. Like the Muses, they had a female guitarist/vocalist, but the similarity ended there. Somewhat befitting their name, they played bubblegum pop which would've gone well on a airplane flight. They were plagued by problems with the bass section, which resulted ultimately in the bass player sitting down 'cause his butt hurt. They gave out free 7" records of stuff from their latest CD titled Me, Me, Me, which should be available at local CD stores now.