Album Reviews: Golden Ocean by 50 Foot WaveDo rockers get a memo as they approach middle age informing them that they now have to produce safe, adult contemporary schlock suitable for dentist's waiting rooms and Super Bowl halftime shows? If Kristin Hersh got one, she immediately tore it to shreds and started making spitballs. Hersh, best-known for her work with the pioneering indie rock outfit Throwing Muses, just keeps getting louder, rougher and more raucous as she get older, and her love of post-punk noise reaches a glorious apex with the debut full-length from her new band, 50 Foot Wave.
Music this raw and frenetic would be amazing coming from a bunch of hyperactive 20-year-olds, but coming from the 38-year-old Hersh and her equally wizened bandmates, drummer Rob Ahlers and Muses bassist Bernard Georges, it's initially almost shocking. Grownups aren't supposed to rock this hard, are they? And yet, it's precisely the band's obvious maturity that makes Golden Ocean such a bracing listening experience. These aren't the teenaged temper tantrums punk and emo fans are too frequently treated to. This is the airtight work of three gifted, mature musicians, led by the ferocious guitar, sandpaper vocals and jagged, angular melodies of Hersh, who sounds reborn nearly 20 years after her Throwing Muses debut.
It's almost impossible to pick standout tracks from the 11 bursts of controlled fury that make up Golden Ocean, though if pressed I'd have to start with Hersh's whipsaw wah-wah guitar and gut-wrenching vocals on "Petal" and the laser-like precision with which the whole band rips through the tricky chord progressions and tempo changes of tracks like "Ginger Park" and "Bone China." But really, this is one of those albums that has to be taken as a whole to be fully appreciated. Not only is 50 Foot Wave the first band in years to pick up where the wildly creative punk/metal/indie rock fusions of Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr. left off -- it actually matches the immediate impact and lasting power of those bands' best albums. It's only March, but Kristin Hersh is already a virtual lock to get my vote as 2005's best comeback artist -- though some would argue that she never went away. - Andy Hermann
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