rock, pop, Dance

Throwing Muses

Throwing Muses



Kristin Hersh, the main artistic force behind Throwing Muses, has always seemed more compelling on her fractious, spooky solo records, than with her original band, and I wonder what the point of reforming her indie giants from the early to mid-1990s is. However, the fact is that here, with her old band she has crafted a raucous, raw, and sometimes successful collection of amplified pop songs. The guitars are raw, the drums sound like they were recorded in a dustbin, but Hersh's wonderful rasp is insistent and melodic. Songs such as the rollicking Half Blast and the opening Mercury career along in a frantic, rattling way.

This remains a vivid, interesting album, none the less, albeit frighteningly reminiscent of this reviewer's clumsy lurching across numerous indie discos around a decade ago.

Kristin Hersh

The Grotto



This latest solo album from Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses is, as ever, resolutely acoustic - just Hersh and her guitar - but with a more raw and vulnerable voice. The cracks and quivers sound slightly affected for it, as does the country-style twanging and rhythms that appear almost artificially slowed-down, such as on Sno Cat. Violin and piano accompaniments are carefully placed here and there, but even where it is most apparent (Deep Wilson), it is understated. Her voice is constantly the focus, which is fine; she's a consistently subtle, poetic song-writer. Given her introspective lyrics, the listener becomes confidante and her description creates images with repetition. Despite earlier complaints, it's these sort of intimacies that bind.

Diamonds on the Inside



Ben Harper was always a bit hushed-up. When he first released Welcome to the Cruel World, the album was passed between friends and they thought they had discovered a more acceptable Lenny Kravitz. None of those fans will remember Harper being this mushy. The title track is Hendrix on sugar flumps and Everything teeters on the brink of love-song cliche, complete with a confession that his lover is the ''last thing that he thinks about at night''. It doesn't mean he doesn't get funky from time to time and do his special slidey guitar thang, but it also means this album is no more or less likable than the rest. Unless you're an aficionado of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who donate their harmonious hums to Picture of Jesus.

Toni Braxton

More than a Woman



Toni Braxton is best known for

her 1996 ballad, Unbreak My Heart, yet the success of its disco remix seems to have prompted

this leap on to the R&B band-wagon of rap crossovers and tokenistic Neptunes tracks (here it's Hit the Freeway).

The problem is that Braxton's deep, husky, but soft, voice just doesn't gel with the jittery production. It makes the carefully-produced songs sound like misjudged remixes, which is most obvious in the jarring of syncopated beats against silken vocals in A Better Man. There's also an early working of the current Beyonce and Jay-Z hit, Bonnie & Clyde (here called Me & My Boyfriend), which is odd given the success of the superior version, and ascending choruses which En Vogue could have used back in the mid-nineties. But that's not to say this won't be monstrously successful.


Tony Cuffe

Sae Will We Yet



Although he recorded with Jock Tamson's Bairns, Ossian, and Billy Jackson, and on other projects including Linn's Complete Burns series and Fergusson's Auld Reikie, when he died in 2001 Tony Cuffe left behind just the one solo album. This collection, including unissued live recordings, demos, sessions recorded in Cuffe's final months, and its ageless title track from the Bairns' first album, redresses that imbalance. Cuffe was a brilliantly innovative multi-instrumentalist and a singer of honesty and real feeling for the Scots tradition and language, as everything here confirms, be it the playfully bawdy Tail Toddle, the eerie Water o Wearie's Well, or the typically eloquent solo guitar setting of Hector the Hero. A handsome tribute to one more who was too soon gone.


Artur Pizarro

Beethoven Piano Sonatas

(Linn Records)


YOU would think, with wall-to-wall series of recordings of Beethoven's piano sonatas available on CD, that there would be little left to be said on the subject. Portuguese pianist Artur Pizarro gives the lie to that notion on his first recording for Linn, in which he chooses four of the best known ''name'' sonatas: the Pathetique, Moonlight, Tempest, and Appassionata. In every respect, this is a major disc, one which opens new windows on the most familiar Beethoven territory. With a mixture of soulfulness and intellectualism, structural command and imaginative freedom, Pizarro grips the listener, creating the impression that the sonatas are newly-minted. He uses an unfashionable Bluthner grand piano, which responds phenomenally to his dazzling articulation, while giving huge sonorous depth to the sound. Interpretations are freshly thought: the intro to the Pathetique has seldom been so slow,

its Allegro seldom so explosive. In every way, a disc to be sought out.