Perhaps unsurprisingly, I am stoked about Throwing Muses’ leader Kristin Hersh’s new memoir, Rat Girl. I don’t have time at the moment to read it, but hope to get to it and review it around the holidays. Between it and my late grandmother’s correspondence from Belgium in the early 1970s, I anticipate a late autumn full of interesting recollections.
Rat Girl follows a smart impulse by detailing one monumental year in the singer-guitarist’s life. So often, memoirs have a compelling start but then slog their way toward the present, leaving whole stretches of time unexplored. At 18, Hersh was diagnosed as bipolar, became pregnant, and found critical success with the band she co-founded with stepsister Tanya Donelly. Geez, and I thought my 18th birthday signaled upheaval. Also, dig Gilbert Hernandez’s cover, which makes Kristen at Act Your Age wish Rat Girl were a graphic novel. If only.
I’m somewhat new to Throwing Muses, having only a peripheral awareness of them before this year. I’ve since gotten into them and their big hit “Not Too Soon” (a Donelly song) will always be with me since it’s the first song I learned to play on guitar.
But I’m struck by Hersh’s crackly alto, assured guitar playing, off-kilter dynamics. I’m especially struck by her abstract lyrics, which often deal with mental anguish, desire, and femininity in ways both disorienting and ingenuous. Between Throwing Muses and the Breeders (which Donelly formed with Kim Deal between her exit from Throwing Muses and founding of Belly), I see no reason why you’ll ever need the Pixies.
The brief summation of plot alone warrants attention. However, I’m especially interested in reading about unlikely Throwing Muses fan Betty Hutton, a former singer and musical film star from the 40s and 50s. Hersh elaborates on it in a recent interview for NPR’s All Things Considered. For those unfamiliar, Betty Hutton is probably best known through Björk, who introduced me and many others to Hutton through “It’s Oh So Quiet,” which was a renamed cover of Hutton’s “Blow a Fuse.” I profess only a perfunctory understanding of Hutton, but can’t wait to learn more about her and the affinity she shared with Ms. Hersh.