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Baker's Dozen

Songs Are Syringes: Kristin Hersh On Her Favourite Tracks
John Doran , October 28th, 2013 09:06

Throwing Muses are releasing Purgatory/Paradise, their first album in a decade, so Kristin Hersh met up with John Doran to discuss her favourite records (not albums)


Violent Femmes - ‘Never Tell’
Everybody knows what’s good about their first album but ‘Never Tell’ off Hallowed Ground has got that fucked up, ‘Glass Onion’ thing and [Gordon Gano, vocalist/guitarist] could have just gone that way. Every now and then a song will pop out of a time or a band and you think, “Yeah, go there.” And then when they don’t it’s like, “What were you thinking? You had the road open up in front of you.” [laughs] And I wanted them to go down the road suggested by ‘Never Tell’. I love the first album of course but it’s so very young. Young in a good way but I thought he was going to go to ‘Never Tell’ next and take that wretchedness to another level.

Songs interest me and it’s rare to hear a good song performed poorly. Usually, if people use lame production it’s because there’s nothing there to honour. And Violent Femmes’ production is fascinating to me. They are full spectrum. They take three acoustic instruments and recorded them in your face and added a dry vocal, it has an incredible musculature behind that texture. And this is what the blues guys, like Robert Johnson couldn’t not do. It’s the Robert Johnson sound. If you could hear Robert Johnson without static he would sound like the Violent Femmes.

Gordon was one of the few songwriters I could relate to. We were both so wretched and little and we had weird china doll faces and we were squealy. We used to play together… a million years ago. I was a teenager! When? 1908 I think! [laughs] But he and I were very similar. We had the transmutation approach. I wrote a book called Rat Girl [Paradoxical Undressings in the UK] in which I said there are some people who are so wretched that it becomes almost like their power. That’s what they have to get through, to survive this absolute wretchedness, and Gordon felt the same way. It’s humiliating to be that kind of person and you become self-deprecating because of it. And you hear that in Gordon’s songs. “I am a joke. This has fucked me up.” And you’re like, “That’s both funny and really not funny at the same time.”