50footwaveband

50 Foot Wave

Bath White EP

[GFP Premiere]

~

introduction by will fitzpatrick

Who knows what demons still tear the noises out from the depths of Kristin Hersh’s psyche. In her 2010 memoir Paradoxical Undressing (published under the less allusive title Rat Girl in the US), she details the terrifying process by which she felt that her songs were practically living entities that forced themselves from her, rendering her a vessel for their gestation, or a vehicle through which they unleashed themselves on the world. Her relationship with the remarkable material that Throwing Muses gave the world between 1984 and 2003 – twisted, brutal and bewitching, sometimes within the same song; jagged and ugly-beautiful like a dying rosebush set alight – was fractious and daunting rather than simply a means of self-expression. At least, that’s the way she tells it, and it’s both fascinating and frightening to see the songwriting process reframed almost as a sort of autonomous exorcism rather than willing catharsis.

50 Foot Wave, her ‘other’ band (active since 2003, fleshed out by fellow ‘Muse Bernard Georges and drummer Rob Ahlers) has been described variously as a punk band, a rock band, or simply an outlet for the material deemed too weird or wild for Throwing Muses. New EP Bath White is their first release since 2012’s With Love From The Men’s Room, and it certainly delivers on the group’s remit: power chords push through deceptive hard rock riffery into complex structures that disorientate at first before burrowing under the skin – songs as symbiotic parasites, fuelling your raw emotion while stripping you bare.

This is a stunning collection, from Hersh’s early, heart-tensing declaration of “I wasn’t brutal / I wasn’t anything at all” to the way the phenomenal God Is Not A Dick suddenly collapses midway through its two minutes and forty-seven seconds, leaving a creeping sense of danger behind as it falls into a swirling black hole of ethereal, captivating noise. Meanwhile, at the top of it, that unique voice remains – a rasping one-inch punch that feels muscular, tender, raw and ruined all at once. Would that other singers were capable of delivering at full pelt what Kristin Hersh offers with the deftest and most surprising of melodic subtleties.

Bath White isn’t feel-good music; nor is it feel-bad-or-sad stuff. It’s way too smart for that. It’s clever and concise yet broad and elaborate, the sort of thing that comforts and questions and hollows you out and leaves you questioning those other records you waste your time with – why don’t they do this? What are they missing? Maybe it’s that these songs truly are alive, or maybe they’re just the product of a songwriter who’s always been a cut above. Regardless, when Kristin Hersh is on this sort of form, there’s no one can touch her. No one.

EP Stream

Track-By-Track Guide

by Kristin Hersh

~

Bath White

and on the way down
wait it out
and on the sand: rotten apples
and on the way down
wait it out
and what you had: only shadows

i wasn’t brutal
i wasn’t anything at all
consensus or confession
i don’t recognize depression
and all day you flaunt your addictions, buddy
as your crowd gathers around

no matter who you are
no matter what you wanted
drugstore glare lights your path
damp memories fill your head
bath white glare lights your path
damp memories still your hand

and all night you court your attraction to me
like a surfer high on the ground

no matter who you are
no matter what you wanted

and on the way down
wait it out
and on the sand was rotten apples
and on the way down
wait it out
and what you caught was only shadows

Swimming in Laguna saltwater, coming clean, laughing with the kids, etc.,
I looked down and saw a pretty big (I wanna say enormous, but I’m not
gonna) shark, between my toes and the sand. California will do this to you
sometimes; catch your breath between spoiling you and inflicting unspoiled
on you. It shrinks you to your appropriate size, an un-mattering. Sharks
are the matter that matters in that sun-sparkled world. It’s their ocean,
not yours.

Anyway, smart people already know that, but I paddled away, pale and
embarrassed. And still, pale and embarrassed, I wander an ocean that isn’t
mine. Not a lot of choice, really. Maybe something new is on the other
side, but I guess none of us’ll know for sure until we finish piling up
the new that keeps getting pitched our way here. Ducking or gathering,
depending. New can be hard, but together we move forward, backward and in
circles, nudged by these suggestions:

1. Don’t hurt each other. If you can’t help, do nothing.
2. And try not to fall for impure when purity is waiting: a rotten apple
can’t feed you, a shadow isn’t a person.
3. When the glare of fluorescent human-ness obscures the light of
humanity, let it wake you up a little, help sort out your noisy
addictions.

One Bath White butterfly is the oldest pinned entomological specimen, the
others fly up and over the Himalayas. I’m not making a judgment call here,
just saying. Cuz it doesn’t get any better than high on the ground, in my
opinion. We don’t get any better than that. Clumsily, sweetly, we surf the
sharks’ ocean, fly the butterflies’ sky, but grounded is pretty great. And
it’s the only greatness that’s really asked of us.

Sometimes it really is so awfully brutal here, I know…and then sometimes?
It’s brutally enchanting. Happy, happy, happy new year.

God’s Not a Dick

chalk it up to circumstance
you watch the tide roll back
it’s all over you
it’s all over

red and happy
decent deceit bit through the gloom
it’s all over you
it’s all over
it’s riveting
gone
and all you got
two black eyes behind sunglasses

me and the wet dogs waiting
raining formaldehyde blooms all over you
it’s all over

trees bend down to meet you
drip through flowers and down your neck
can’t take another step
not another step
i’m balancing on your pretty mess
two black eyes behind sunglasses

tape it all back up
you promise god’s not a dick?
new orleans is on fire with blue flames and LA flowers
you promise god’s not a dick?

“Only cash, we got electricity!” the lady yelled when I opened the liquor
store door. She was built entirely of load-bearing tattoos that seemed to
barely support her long, burnt hair. No body, no face. “Oh, it’s you. You
live up the block? Pay me later.”

I let the door shut behind me. “You have electricity?”

“Everywhere!” she threw up her hands, “except where it should be.
Everything shocks you. Buy whatever you want, but don’t touch nuthin’.”

While I tried to figure out how to do this, the bell on the door behind me
dinged and a tourist couple walked in. A few raindrops followed them. The
cashier glanced over her shoulder and slammed the register shut. “Only
cash!” she told them and they nodded. “And don’t touch nuthin’.” They
nodded again, scared. “It’s for your own good,” she explained. “Everything
shocks you.” This fact did seem to shock them, actually.

Tattoos and burnt hair animated themselves enough to grab a stepladder and
look up, as rain began to drum on the metal roof. You could see her face
now, as she gazed into the fluorescent lights on the ceiling: suspicious,
tired but afraid to let down her guard. She maybe ran hot and then went
cold and now it could go either way. “No barbecue, today, neither,” she
sighed, disgusted. She began emptying the contents of the refrigerator
into a cooler on the floor.

I grabbed a carton of milk. It did not shock me. “I’m taking this,” I told
her and moved toward the door. The rain was getting crazy. In New Orleans,
it comes down sudden. Just know that as long as it’s coming down and not
sideways, you’re cool.

“‘kay, good,” she muttered without looking up. The tourists huddled
together, moving carefully down an aisle and whispering, for some reason.
The red headed woman’s tattoos continued to move perishables into the
cooler. “This blows,” she spat, and climbed down the stepladder to light a
cigarette.

“It’s kinda cool,” I said, opening the door to watch heavy raindrops
splash under the awning. A few cars drove by, their headlights making the
torrent glow. I love the rushing sound of cars in rain. “It’s…science,” I
said.

The cashier squinted at me through the cigarette smoke obscuring her face.
“Science is a dick,” she announced flatly.

Smiling, I waved goodbye with my quart of milk, stepped outside and shut
the door carefully, blinking in the wet. The sidewalk ran, the gutters
were rivers, and enormous flowers, big as your head, cranked it all
up…underwater blue and on wicked fire.

Human

“nah, just hungry i guess
i’ll sleep in the attic”
bone-broke slow or whipped cold
i live clean

breathtaking
you took my breath away
breath by breath
you taught me how to breathe
i guess i’ll crash in the attic
palms up
i love clean

big star in the dark
note to self: it’s your fault
back slowly out the doorway
you can’t win

i never wanted that twisted demon who wears me down and winds me up
blinds me to heaven
i wanted
i wanted that twisted human who stares me down and flies me up
flies me to heaven
the crime of it
the punishment
the crime of it
the punishment
passed out in
passed out in the hospital
where
where else could i
where else could i go?
and you were mine
you were my
you were my only human
and you
you were
you were my
you were my only human
twice i catch your eyes’ rainbows
oil slick tears

I’m sitting on my front porch, watching my dogs, who are watching me.
Because I live in New Orleans, beautiful murder capital of the country, I
keep my dogs around me often. From a distance, it’d be hard to tell
they’re more hamster than wolf. Anyway, we do this a lot, this staring at
each other. Sort of a standoff of nonverbal, mutual appreciation.

Turns out dogs aren’t as nonverbal as we’d thought, though, according to a
recent study that found canines have the same brain hemisphere bias when
it comes to interpreting human speech that we do. Kind of a bummer. I
mean, it makes me feel sorta bad to know that we’ve inflicted our distance
from senses onto zen beings like these bewitching girls who are now
smiling at me and drooling, their tongues hanging out, like good-natured,
demented babies.

Having described myself as a “human with a dog brain” I now feel the
hubris in that statement. It gets watery when you try to traverse
delineation. Us beings splash all over each other. And yet…human beings…I
don’t know, we just seem tasked with stories. I assume these fuzzy dog
girls have lived in the moment’s peace and turmoil throughout their lives,
but all the people I know keep starting at beginnings and journeying
through middles and cleaning up messes ’til they dig so deep, they come
out the other side. To an ending of sorts. Just to take a breath and
wander into another story, another beginning.

Some of that is nonverbal, but we seem to like sharing. We blurt out
interesting syllables, take each other for rides, watch carefully when our
closest humans journey and dig deep, etc. Our various hemispheres light up
in caring, in fascination, whether we hear words or melodies or glimpse
snapshots of another’s ride. We don’t bore each other, that’s for sure.

Ratted Out

our clothes were dirty
but you made a body’s mouth water
everybody lies but it was true this time

sore and sweating
we were staring out a blue window
everybody lies but it was you this time

summer lightning
in the night you’d climb anything
except for your bad luck
i would pray for your cold touch

ratted out
we rotted out
from the inside out
everybody lies but it was useless this time

Rob ‘Moose‘ Ahlers, 50FootWave’s drummer:

“Recording with Mudrock is like
drinking a bowl of gin. It hurts to fly.”

Every time we work with Mudrock, it is indeed a roller coaster of steep
learning curves and stomach dropping falls. Very much like drinking a bowl
of gin, I imagine. Like something everybody’s done but more. And more than
we can probly handle, knowing our wimpy constitutions. Moose didn’t even
mention the hangover, which is like an odd swelling of nostalgia for last
week plus a big, fat question mark: “What just happened?” It does hurt to
fly, but it hurts more to land.

I mean, we work so fast, the sessions rushing, racing past. LA all hazy in
a dusty wind, lives lived in cars, rushing and racing. And Mud is such a
freaky genius, his hands playing around on knobs, independent of his eyes
which are trained on you, wide and unblinking. Pretty weird. Then his legs
twitch his body up out of the producer’s swivel chair and he begins
opening up drawers and cabinets, starts pitching Japanese effects pedals
and vintage compressors onto the floor, asking me to take my pick. But
when I do? Mud squints through me and plugs them all in, scrambling around
on the floor until I just trail off rather than finish the sentence he
wasn’t listening to anyway, let my hand drop to my side like it wasn’t
pointing at anything, while I watch him scramble. He’s so driven, he moves
like a meat robot. Like an amalgam of electrical impulses. Best not to get
in his way.

Bernard Georges, 50FootWave’s bass player:

“Playing in this band is like
jumping down a waterfall: fun and stupid.”

Our arms hurt is all, after a particularly gruesome take; Bernie was just
putting it poetically. Mudrock listened…sort of…his unsettled gaze forming
its own opinion, his brain ignoring his eyes which were ignoring his
hands, etc. “Just go,” he said, like he was ordering a firing squad to
shoot. “Just go and don’t. Fucking. Stop.”

St. Christopher

blow out the candle so he can’t see in the window
smoke fills the tiny room
sweat home high
we can fool around

fight off the smell of doom
you smell like cold and dry leaves

leaving is hardest on hookworm sidewalks
just snow static on the crap tv
fluorescent exposure
a gold grin told her christ’s not saving the weak

i wanna go faster
i wanna go farther from home

dang
yuppies ate my town where i fed and slept you
paced the foamy sand
crawled in the backseat
us still broke
unmoved by unlived futures
the streets run with soap
the sky angry

dang
flag’s at quarter mast even though i fed and slept you
paced the foamy sand
crawled in the backseat
our friends all broke
unmoved by unspent youth
you still damp with foam and hungry

christ on a cracker we live on these creamers
who knew church’d claim us too?
sweat home high
we can fool around

fight off the smell of doom
i wanna go faster
i wanna go farther from home

Been peering into the distance, looking for a ghost ship – some kinda
support group for lost souls – forever in my right hand, untethered in my
left. Forever untethered, though? Not sure I can fit them into both
hemispheres of my brain at once. Like for granted and forever. Why do they
gotta be worlds apart? Why’s the rug always getting pulled out from under
us? I thought home was the past and away was the future, but that ghost
ship is headed home.

Maybe traveling mercies are those pitying glances you get from movement
when you stand still. Smooth, gentling excitement that kicks in to help
you see the picture in front of you in a frame of fascination, even if
it’s an old snapshot, one you’ve seen a thousand times before. Say you got
stuck somewhere, mired in a cheap rental or a job you took for a couple
months to get you by that turned into a couple years….to get you by. We
gotta get by. Sweetly, willingly, together. Nothing wrong with getting
mired, nothing wrong with getting by.

Years are long, though; years are you. When no ghost ship appears in the
mist, plastic St. Christopher prays over my static carcass, prays that I
look around. At the swinging bare bulb over the dude pouring cereal for
dinner in his attic apartment, at the wall of thorny berries missed by
cars racing past, a little, year-round Christmas. At the beagle staring
down from her porch perch, at the light, the light, the light. No light is
like any other and yet all angles and shades will trigger a murky response
worthy of St. Christopher’s knee jerk prayer. His hope that we sense the
space between atoms, the movement between moves. He knows heart muscles
squeeze themselves shut and we can’t jump forward into scar tissue’s
thickened, icy favors cuz it’s not possible. Shoulda done that math a long
time ago.

Guess we were never really on solid ground, just a flying carpet. And when
I sink into it, it feels so familiar.

Sun Salute

we play in attics
kicked out of living spaces
and the basement heat-seeking
up in the trees like that
plain water for the man who believes that he can fly

you wrote a pathetic play and acted it all out one day
so tell me how you’re heat-seeking

and if you can do the meadow
your own twisted sun salute
a thirsty man in the meadow
the air is burnt
the ground is blue

sun and coffee
van in the parking lot
magic in your back pocket
the gods of holiday inn smiling down
you never win and never want for nothing

and if you can do the meadow
your own shiftless sun salute
a thirsty man in the meadow
the air is burnt
the ground is blue

Remember this? Heaven going in and out of focus as we climbed the stairs,
climbing the walls. Nervous energy tangling up our insides, then
untangling our thoughts when we plugged in and tried to let fly. Not to
heaven yet…first we had to celebrate the sticky textures of this plane,
looking for the burning and maybe some burning shame, I dunno. The first
kind of burning converts fuel to heat to mechanical energy, and it sent
our dumpy vehicle around the parking lot in the middle of the night, doing
donuts. Then sour coffee and donuts with the drag queens under fluorescent
lights. Inching toward heaven.

Back up the stairs to the attic practice space and now it’s like camping
under the stars, one skylight showing us our mayfly doom compared to
infinite darkness and far-flung fireballs, the other showed us pretty
light pollution, gold and muffling. Coffee finished, we switch to plain
water, anticipating the burning. The best we can be is pathetic…groping
for the human condition, that’s our win. Burning shame. Sad, really. Then,
pitying heaven climbs the walls, oozing up from the basement like noise,
seeps in through the crummy carpet, joins the heat. Heaven is pure but
still a little crummier than we’d heard. Which matches us better.

Of course, this was all a long time ago. Now road-hogging, tar-kissing,
means heaven and hell and this plane have combined into interesting fumes
in the burnt air and weird-ass chemicals in the blue dirt. Plus tendrils
of the night before and muscles sore from tension and release. You got a
weird salad for breakfast where the quinoa got mushy and maybe it’s not
even quinoa, it just looked like it inside the plastic container but
that’s ok cuz it’s not breakfast from the Coke machine and also? Right
behind the Holiday Inn is a devastating empty lot full of wildflowers and
honest wind and maybe some garbage, but that’s just because of that
heaven/hell/this plane thing and we’re used to that. It’s pretty pretty,
it’s plain water, and you’re thirsty for it.

~

‘Bath White’ is released on May 27th, via HHBTM Records

hhbtm.com

kristinhersh.com

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