Paradoxical Undressing

Paradoxical Undressing is a mostly spoken word show by Throwing Muses/50 Foot Wave front woman Kristin Hersh. A series of ten minute autobiographical fragments covering the time up until about the first Throwing Muses album read over guitar riffs, interspersed with excerpts from songs (mostly hers but a couple of covers).

The texts have much of the obliqueness of her songwriting, made less obscure by the extra room for explanation that the extended form allows. Everything is apparently impressionistic and naive but expertly wrapped up and structured, with a wry humour taking the edge off the darker material and showing self knowledge that gives a great degree of insight into the experiences being described. Most of this text has been mailed (out on a mailing list I can’t find a link for right now) so it was familiar. The performance added a lot – Kristin has great timing and delivery, adding a lot of warmth to the proceedings.

Much of this has been covered in detail in other reviews but one of the things that particularly struck a chord with me which I don’t think I’ve heard anyone articulate particularly clearly was the description of talking to other people who were doing music and realising that there were people who just didn’t get it, who just did things and didn’t really connect with what they were doing in any meaningful way. There are some things that seem so natural and obvious that it causes quite a bit of cognitive dissonance when you realise that it’s not so for everyone – in my case it’s been things like abstraction and the engineering idea of elegance but I’m fairly sure that this is actually a universal experience. I believe there are some people with hand eye coordination and stuff.

The only reservation I had was with the music. Since I knew most of the songs the musical interludes were a bit frustrating at times – I kept on being disappointed when the second verses failed to appear. Of course, this probably doesn’t peg me as the most critical observer of her work so you might want to take what I say with a pinch of salt.

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