As Kristin Hersh releases her fourth solo album, 'Sunny Border Blue', you might be forgiven for thinking that she has left her Throwing Muses past behind her and moved beyond the times when they were acclaimed as the next big thing. But some of her lyrics could make you think otherwise: in the final song on the album she asks "how did I love a breaking thing?/How did I sleep through a kidnapping?/How'd I trust a band who'd leave me one by one?"('Listerine')
Hersh formed Throwing Muses in 1983 with her half-sister Tanya Donnelly, also of The Breeders and Belly fame. The first American band to be signed to the influential UK-based 4AD label, the melodic indie sensibilities of the Muses left a lasting mark on many of their successors. Unfortunately, it was not enough for the band and these days they are dormant apart from a couple of gigs every year. Hersh simply states that they just don't have enough money to be a band, "at least right now, until one of us wins the lottery". Although she has played solo acoustic tours since 1994, Hersh says that she only really feels safe to tear her guts out when her band, her friends, are around her. But she cannot get away from music – describing it as "a love, a hate, an addiction". Despite her reservations she is a riveting live performer who is far warmer and more humorous than her music reveals.
Hersh's continuing struggle with bi-polar disorder, which has been both a curse and blessing, has been well documented. It means that many of her songs come to her whether she wants them to or not; "they just kinda play, they get stuck in my head." The songs on Sunny Border Blue wrestle with tragedies such as the loss of her son, her band and trouble in her marriage. Despite this, Hersh claims that she is over these things – but the songs are not. For her, the lyrics are just "phonetic melodies", but they address issues which also affect other people including her family and band. Many of the lyrics are very direct; in the steely, rapier-like 'Spain' she sings "I wanted you to sleep with her and hate yourself/instead of me/I wanted you untrue, hating yourself/like me".
In many ways the songs are cathartic for Hersh – having exposed these feelings, some of which she didn't even realise she still had, she doesn't have to fight with them on a daily basis and she claims to be a very happy person. In many ways she stands outside her music; she speaks of the songs as if they were written by someone else. Perhaps it is safer that way.
Sunny Border Blue (4AD) is out on March 12.