50 Foot Wave – S/T EP

50 Foot Wave

Over the past 15 years or so, Kristin Hersh has become a reliable source of both dark tunefulness (courtesy of her work with Throwing Muses) and stark songwriting bliss in her solo work. Throwing Muses has always been a meandering, introspective act, manipulating song structures just enough to create solid rock music that managed to stay accessible while also seeming just slightly “off’ compared to the band’s peers, while Hersh’s solo material always seems to buzz with a special sense of musical crafting.

As a sort of unofficial farewell, Throwing Muses released a self-titled album in 2003 that seemed more brash than the band’s previous material. Directly on the heels of that record, a pregnant Hersh committed herself to completing her most recent solo album, The Grotto, which was noticeably more stark and direct than her previous work. Keeping that in mind, it should come as no surprise that with her new project, 50 Foot Wave, Hersh has basically shirked all of her previous musical associations and continued along the path carved by her last few projects, cranking out six songs of surprisingly fresh and uncluttered rock.

While this is most definitely a Hersh project (if for no other reason than for the distinctive tone that her voice alone gives these songs), it needs to be noted that the rest of the 50 Foot Wave cast is perfectly able as well, as Throwing Muses bassist Bernard Georges and former Charm Farm drummer Rob Ahlers round out the lineup.

The lively “Bug” staggers along on a demented guitar line that backs a surprisingly gruff-sounding chorus vocal (“…And hey – didn’t you say something’s missing?”). “Clara Bow” carries a nasty rock-and-roll sneer courtesy of a few cutting-like-an-alarm-sound guitar bits as well as Hersh’s tone (“I never used you, but I wish I had … With sunburned lips I can bitch about another stupid summer”). “Glory Weed” bounds back and forth from a dirty groove to a punkish double-time rhythm, stopping at one point to add a bit of restrained sass between the two. “Long Painting” and “Lavender” are just solid, sub-three minute slabs of guitar chord-age as good as anything bands like Dead Moon and The Fastbacks have ever churned out. The crowning moment, though, is the disc’s closing track, “Dog Days,” which is certainly one of the grandest and most unapologetic rock songs of Hersh’s catalogue. The peak hits when Hersh repeats with a rasp, “Don’t touch me – I don’t know where you’ve been,” which results in quite the rhythmic guitar thrashing.

Surprisingly, the rhythm section of 50 Foot Wave brings as much to the table as Hersh does for this release. The background racket laid down by Georges and Ahlers is absolutely pounding, and the end result is a surprising amount of depth and strength backing Hersh’s vocals and guitarwork. The best part about the band, though, may actually be 50 Foot Wave’s plan for the future. The band members plan on releasing six-or-seven song mini-albums once every nine months or so, to help keep material fresh for both songwriting and touring purposes. Based on this debut mini-album, the more material the band spits out, the better. Recommended.