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It’s easy to wonder why 50 Foot Wave needs to exist, since two-thirds of the band (singer/guitarist Kristen Hersh and bassist Bernard Georges) also comprise two-thirds of alternative rock pioneers Throwing Muses. Is this just a band that plays new Hersh material whenever Muses drummer David Narcizo is unavailable? On Black Pearl, the group’s first new music since 2016, the answer is emphatically no. 50FW has an identity distinct from the parent act, and not just because any good rock band will tell you that a change in drummers changes everything. While Hersh’s songwriting maintains her singular sense of melody and individual world view, the way the band expresses it is looser, less focused, and that’s meant in a good way. The shifting dynamics of “Fly Down South” and “Broken Sugar” sound like the trio is improvising over Hersh’s melodic outlines, rambling in a way the Muses never would, while the liquid overdriven guitars on “Blush” and “Staring Into the Sun” land harder and heavier than Hersh’s usual method. More experimental than the Muses, more psychedelic than anything in Hersh’s CV, Black Pearl is a reminder that Throwing Muses is only the beginning of her musical vision.
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