Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Wave for the New Week #44

[All throughout the month of November, all NW4NW entries are based on requests made by you, dear readers. Because of the amount of requests received, there will often be more than one entry per week during this month - I recommend signing up for email alerts on the left-hand side of the screen so that you don't miss any of the fun!]

Throwing MusesThrowing Muses via

Two more requests to fill in what has been a very successful NW4NW All Request Month! Up next comes a request from Jay Marshall, who submitted the only request I received for neither a specific band nor a specific song, but for a record label! Jay suggested any of the 4AD bands, and listed a couple of his favorites. From his list, I chose one of mine.

The 4AD Records label started up in in England in 1980, originally as Axis Records, an offshoot of the successful Beggar's Banquet label. After releasing a handful of singles, they discovered another label was already called Axis, and so changed their name to 4AD Records, from the caption on a poster that label founder Ivo Watts-Russell had seen.

4AD swiftly became one of the top UK indie labels, signing bands like Dead Can Dance, The Wolfgang Press, The The, Dif Juz, and Cocteau Twins. Their signature sound was what you might call goth-light: swirling, ethereal, and melancholy. The label often sent their bands out on packaged tours and developed an almost cult-like following. It wasn't until 1986 that 4AD reached across the pond to sign their first American bands, snatching up The Pixies, who have been covered in this series here, and the band I picked to fill Jay's request, Throwing Muses.

Stepsisters Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly had formed the band five years earlier when they were in high school in Newport, RI, and had even managed to self-release an EP in 1984. With the name-value of the 4AD label behind them, though, Throwing Muses quickly became darlings of college radio. Their sound was a little more jagged than the typical 4AD band to that point in time, and their melodies and arrangements tended toward the unorthodox. Singing songs about alienation, distress and psychosis, Throwing Muses found an audience who adored them.

1989's Hunkpapa album saw the band hit their apex, with the single "Dizzy" reaching the Top Ten on Billboard's Modern Rock charts; they maintained that momentum through 1991's The Real Ramona, which contained their finest moment, "Not Too Soon." Tanya Donnelly was swiftly becoming the "star" of the band. Her adorable alterna-chick image was played up by the media; that image coupled with her poppier melodic tendencies made her of the early 1990s' alternative music scene's icons. Having already begun to do some side-project work (including joining Pixies' guitarist Kim Deal in The Breeders), Donnelly split from Throwing Muses after 1991. Eventually, she would form her own band, Belly, who had a minor hit in 1994, "Feed The Tree."

Kristen Hersh and the rest of Throwing Muses soldiered on through three more albums before calling it a day in 1996, but with Donnelly gone it wasn't the same. Occasional reunion shows popped up now and again, becoming more frequent in 2000-2001. Donnelly even appeared onstage with the band at one point, and in 2003 a new self-titled Throwing Muses album appeared. Donnelly was not officially part of the band, but did provide some backing vocals on the LP. Nothing more has been heard from the band since then.

Thank you, Jay, for your request! I hope you will enjoy my pick for this NW4NW entry, Throwing Muses' clip for "Not Too Soon" (with Tanya Donnelly on vocals).

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