50 Foot Wave Black Pearl (Fire): Album Review

50 Foot Wave unleash a tsunami of sound on this, the trio’s second full-length album and first since 2005.

Along the way, the band has released a string of EPs, but front person Kristin Hersh has kept herself plenty busy over the years with her “other” band, Throwing Muses, along with various solo projects. (We last spoke to Kristin in 2020 when she released Sun Racket).

50 Foot WaveThe other two members are bassist Bernard Georges (also of Throwing Muses) and drummer Rob Ahlers.

The seven songs that comprise Black Pearl were written in Hersh’s adopted home town of New Orleans…the album title coming from a neighbourhood in N.O…but the sound itself is otherworldly.

The opening seconds of first track Staring Into The Sun sound like a foghorn bellowing menacingly across the ocean. When Kristin’s voice finally comes in it’s the sound of a siren that will draw you to the shore, only to have you crash against the rocks. That crash is what Hersh’s unrelenting distorted guitar sounds like.

Hog Child follows as Georges lays down a creeping, ominous bass line. Kristin brays about being a “hog child born wild in a surreal tinfield”.

Drummer Ahlers shows off his stuff as he pummels Fly Down South into submission, all the while Hersh sings about “the seaweed in your hair”.

This is not music for the fainthearted.

The instrumental title track gives us something of a break with its moody, restrained vibe.

Then, with a thwack, side two opens with Broken Sugar, Hersh’s guitar and vocal vie for prominence…her raspy, strangulated voice barely audible over the Nirvana-esque grunge of her guitar.

“If I drown, this is how”, she spits out

If that’s not enough, then brace yourself for Blush. “I’m pretty damn contraindicated” (look it up) she cries and the trio turns it up to 11, sounding like Godzilla crushing everything in his path.

There is some sonic respite in final song, Double Barrel, the most melodic and least dense of the tracks.   “Are you still numb?” Hersh asks. Overwhelmed is more like it.

Beginning with “a liquid noose around your neck” and closing with “butterflies around you picking up the pace”, Black Pearl is an album made for these uneasy times.

It may hurt a little, but it’s good for you.

Marty Duda

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