Black Pearl

50 Foot Wave

Fire Records, 2022

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Kristin Hersh has always used 50 Foot Wave as a third outlet for her angular, jagged, layered hard rock. The Throwing Muses name has weight and history, and her solo albums are just that, so the chance to record with a power trio but not have to have comparisons to the Muses’ body of ’80s and ’90s work is sort of freeing for Hersh. Over the last 18 or so years, 50 Foot Wave has sporadically released EPs and one other album (that was itself a collection of songs already released, mostly). This isn’t a prolific trio, but Hersh is a prolific songwriter dating back to 1986, so when something is released under the Wave name, it's usually worth a listen.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Black Pearl is indeed interesting and occasionally mysterious, though the 32-minute album stops short of being compelling. Fans of ’80s and ’90s non-commercial alternative rock—the jangly, jagged, noisy kind—will feel right at home here, of course. There’s little concession to pop music or accessibility and plenty of love for layered, distorted guitars on songs with jarring tempo shifts and Hersh’s raspy growl.

The best moment is the opening track “Staring Into The Sun,” a distillation of everything great about Hersh’s songwriting, and the sort of layered noise rock that sounds like a modern update on My Bloody Valentine and the like. Unfortunately, the downshift into the awkward “Hog Child” and the shifts of “Fly Down South” don’t quite measure up, and the title cut is basically a surf-rock instrumental, but slowed way down and stomped into the mud at Lollapalooza.

“Broken Sugar” and “Blush” have some interesting ideas, though it takes a few listens to appreciate them, which is not unusual for anything Hersh has been a part of. “Double Barrel” has a bit more melody and a circular guitar solo to boot, ending the album on an odd note as it just sort of stops, but warranting repeated listens just because it tries to be different.

A few more songs would have helped to round this out, making it feel like a true album instead of a long EP, and certainly a couple more surefire tracks like “Staring Into The Sun” would have boosted the weaker tracks here. Black Pearl is not without its draws, and will appeal to a certain group of fans, but it’s not the statement it could have been and certainly was not worth such a long wait.

Rating: C

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