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50 FT WAVE - 'BATH WHITE' ALBUM/EP REVIEW


Bloody kids. They won't let you do yourself in. They insist instead that you first work yourself to death.  Bloody music. Hate music sometimes, oft-times, most times these days. It won't let you sleep. It insists instead that you listen when all you want is a horizontal surface and oblivion. Nags at you because there's always new music. And because there's some people you trust dammit. If you're a writer or a reader or a lover or a fighter you care about rhythm and words and clarity and Kristin Hersh has been an inspirational teacher to anyone willing to listen for 30 years now. An indupitable genius but that word would neuter her ever-revolutionary power, puts her in a lineage, the habits of mens with pens. She's too unique for that. I know you can't have gradations of uniqueness but somehow Kristin's writing and playing is always just a little bit more unique than unique. To use words to clutch at something both outside and inside yourself, simultaneously, it's a battle and Kristin has been always hugely instructive. These are merely husks that retrospect throws you by the way - while she's on, while whichever band she's in or out of are playing and she's singing her songs, you're learning nothing except how to dance, and how to keep your expectations high.


We seek delineations in our artists' output. Like there always has to be a reason to do things under different names. I'd say if you wonder why 50ft Wave songs aren't Throwing Muses songs it has to do with the methods, and where it puts Kristin, not the songs themselves. The songs are Hersh songs and you should know everything that can mean. But the songs are played by 50Ft Wave and that means something different. Throwing Muses' last album (and perhaps their last ever album) 'Purgatory Paradise' was painstaking, shattering, astonishing, a drop in on their world, a hanging-out that haunted your dreams. It was as much about the place it was made as the people who made it - there wasn't a record in 2014 that so took you to a specific place and rendered that place and time with such minimal grace and maximal tactility. It had a climate that record, a time of the day and the season - the way it conjoined with the book that came with it made it an immersive, artful, engulfing experience. In contrast, 50ft Wave's 'engagement' with you is more thuggish, an inarguable pull down their alley and a lapel-pulling snarl in the face with songs that are, as Kristin has called them, 'ultra-Muses' songs - they come beaming out from people without place, people who've plugged in and are playing right now and could be anywhere where wood and wire has been gathered to make a racket. In a sense 50ft Wave have no  'history' (although they've released alot in the past 10 years all downloadable here) and no baggage - for me they're what Kristin goes to when she needs to speak fast, nail a heat now before it evanesces, spit the flames or the ice out lickety-split. Bath White is not an LP, another tight-shot EP only, no chance for the warmth or security of a narrative to establish itself, rather the turbid frenzy of moments, an instant magic-mirror step into the room they're in. The line up of 50ft Wave this time around is the same that unleashed their pipebomb self-titled EP in 2004, Bernard George and Kristin and the drummer who Kristin describes as 'sounding like he's pushing a drum-kit down the stairs', Rob Ahler. The heat remains, the thump, the fuzz, the noise, the sharpness, the blast. What Bath White also gives is space, dazzle, a little more psyche, a little more shape, a little more glimmer. It's a total delight from front to back.



The title track lets you know the palette they'll be playing with. 50ft Wave keep things limited deliberately, Kristin's guitar on heavy, the rhythm section on clean - so what excites about their sound isn't the limitless possibilities, rather the stretchings and explorations of those limitations, what can be done with a power-trio. The riffs are diamonds throughout and the words engagingly stepping between personas to the point where you don't know if the singer is singing at someone or singing at themselves or singing at their dog or singing at god. Each song has a target, is pointed towards someone. If you want you can make it you. The directness means if you're in the same room as this music you are witnessing speech, you are in on one end of a conversation. As ever with Kristin's songs there is no selfishness, only reportage over a damaged line, a long game from which you are given the highlights. A snapshot of real talk, the way people talk. And so it's moving as fuck.

i wasn’t brutal 
i wasn’t anything at all 
consensus or confession 
i don’t recognize depression 
and all day you flaunt your addictions, buddy 
as your crowd gathers around 

'God's Not A Dick' is redolent for me of Limbo-era Muses - a nicely oddball verse of Meat-Puppets-style cubist psyche before it notices it only has a minute left and sets itself on fire, strides out from the flames, weaving home alone until the glow dims.

i’m balancing on your pretty mess 
two black eyes behind sunglasses 
tape it all back up 
you promise god’s not a dick? 
new orleans is on fire with blue flames and LA flowers 
you promise god’s not a dick?

50ft Wave L-R, Kristin Hersh (guitars), Bernard George (bass), Rob Ahler (drums) 
'Human''s structure again contributes to that snapshot documentarian feel. Never heard Kristin's voice sound so accented, the glottal stops and speed again of real talk. Next to nothing repeats bar the intro, the rest is a torsion of dread, an acceleration of fear in a world where demons drive you to self-destruction and people keep you alive, put up with your shit, let you 'crash in the attic/palms up. . . big star in the dark/note to self: it's your fault'. 'Ratted Out' has a gorgeous wide-panning psyche-swell that slips into a great stumbing kraut/post-punk groove, less a song than a natural phenomena, bubbling with lava and light, Kristin's voice aerial above, swooping, guarding, singeing its wings, dried out to dessication. My highlight has to be 'St Christopher' - from its slo-mo 'intro' build to the rattle'n'shake of its 'verse' to the tangled nest of its 'chorus', it's just utterly devestating and dead redolent of the finest moments of 'Chains Changed' and 'House Tornado'. The 'middle'of the song is dominated by this stunning whorl of drone and downered dynamics (I swear down it sounds like Janes Addiction's 'Three Days') - I put those structural terms in inverted commas because it sounds barely contained by western precepts  and again all of them only occur once bar a stunning reflare towards the end. It sounds like ritual music. Like an invocation that just might afford its protaganist a way out. The wonderful closer 'Sun Salute' could be a lysergic flashback or heatstruck delirium but it leaves your wig firmly flipped, warmed by the knowledge that you're not the only one bent out of shape here, a smile despite, feeling a little less lonely about how ill-fitted to reality you've ended up. 

we play in attics 
kicked out of living spaces 
and the basement heat-seeking 
up in the trees like that 
plain water for the man who believes that he can fly 
you wrote a pathetic play and acted it all out one day 
so tell me how you’re heat-seeking 

the air is burnt 
the ground is blue 
sun and coffee 
van in the parking lot 
magic in your back pocket 
the gods of holiday inn smiling down 

For this fan, unlike nearly everyone else, Kristin doesn't do disappointment. No time for it. New solo stuff soon come but don't wait for that, get Bath White right fkn now.  Bloody music. It won't let you sleep. 

Comments

  1. An all time favourite of mine. Kristin never disappoints. It's the pure honesty that gets me every time.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kristin's in a league of her own. While much of my generation were listening to Morrisey,I was listening to Throwing Muses.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This wonderful record prised me away from Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard's new album which, if you knew how much I adore MWWB, would give you some idea of how intoxicating "Bath White" is.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This wonderful record prised me away from Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard's new album which, if you knew how much I adore MWWB, would give you some idea of how intoxicating "Bath White" is.

    ReplyDelete

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