Album Reviews

50 Foot Wave: Black Pearl

Kristin Hersh and Co. return with the band’s second full-length offering.

Few illuminate reality like Kristin Hersh. An artist that has experienced the highs and lows during a career that has spanned over 21 albums between Throwing Muses and her solo offerings, Hersh has never been one to leave anything inside the studio walls. With some of the music being released today nothing short of bland, superficial and soulless, many could take a leaf out of Hersh’s book; a bastion for all emerging artists.

Via both Throwing Muses and Hersh’s solo material, the indie veteran has bridged the gap between cult following and what many would define as “rock star”, occupying that happy medium. In 2003 alongside fellow Throwing Muses bassist, Bernard Georges, and drummer, Rob Ahlers, Hersh birthed 50 Foot Wave. An outlet to emit the kind of anthemic sonic waves tailor-made for outliers and freaks alike. The goths, the indie kids, the normies. Hell, even the fucking jocks. Everyone can garner something from 50 Foot Wave: a rainbow coalition for all to enjoy.

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The first 50 Foot Wave release since their 2016 EP, Bath White, Black Pearl sees the band providing more of the good oil. True to form, Black Pearl is nothing flashy or pretentious. A band that’s always looked straight down the gun barrel, sticking to their formula and refining it as the years roll on.

From the first note of the brilliant opener, Staring into the Sun, you get the feeling that 50 Foot Wave have produced their finest offering yet. Alongside the equally thrilling Fly Down South, here we have a pair of dirge-y alt-rock bangers fit for open roads with the volume pumped to the max.

50 Foot Wave - Black Pearl

Meanwhile Hog Child is the kind of track that dangles at the bottom of the chain. “All it takes is half a century” sings Hersh, her vocal distinctive, unmatched, marinated in nicotine and spirits. While there is some Throwing Muses crossover here, it’s weighed down by Georges’ bass weight in something you would expect from noise-rock band dialling down the chaos.

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With spacious atmospheres and textures, Black Pearl is like a come-down interlude that is perfectly shoehorned within these batch of songs. It shouldn’t really work but in true fashion, 50 Foot Wave don’t do filler. It acts as a gateway to Broken Sugar – a snarling cut with grooves that swerve with rapid force, and alongside the luscious textures that underpin Black Pearl, it almost feel like alt-rock’s logical conclusion.  

In many ways the song itself defines Black Pearl. 50 Foot Wave have never set out to change the world; their honesty transcending the notions of world domination. For Hersh in particular, it’s her greatest boon, and alongside Georges and Ahlers, the trio push each other to their creative limits while still having the time of their lives in their quest to produce this form of art. With Black Pearl, once again, it’s mission accomplished.

Black Pearl is out now via Fire Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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