For some reason, I felt myself wanting to drink a red ale while listening to this recording. I made a trip down the road to Full Throttle Bottles where Erika, the owner, steered me to the Bockor Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge Sour from The Omer Vander Ghinste Brewery in Belgium:
Like many of the recordings in this series, I was first introduced to this when I was in my early twenties, not too long after I had joined the Navy. If memory serves me correctly (and sometimes it doesn’t), I bought this originally on cassette and played the magnetized bits out of it while wondering about the San Francisco Bay Area
Release:The Real Ramona
Label:4AD (Uk) / Sire (US)
- Counting Backwards
- Him Dancing
- Red Shoes
- Golden Thing
- Ellen West
- Hook in her head
- Not too soon
- Say Goodbye
- Two Step
The Real Ramona is an album by Throwing Muses. Released in 1991, it was the last album recorded by the band before the departure of founding member Tanya Donelly.
The album marked the end of a time for the band, and a transition into a new one. The band’s two heavyweights, Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly, had been the anchor holding the entire group down. After this album, Donelly left and formed Belly, taking the bassist on this album, Fred Abong, along with her. Hence, the album can be seen as an epitaph to the early days of the band.
The Throwing Muses’ sound is hard to describe, and this record is especially difficult. Despite having the hallmarks of their unfamiliar song structures and Hersh’s voice, The Real Ramona’s sound has been considered as quite poppy. Though this album was the last to feature Donelly, it carried many of her signature sounds. While she only wrote two songs for this album (“Honeychain” and “Not Too Soon”), the Muses had a jumpier, poppier sound that Donelly kept with her when she moved to Belly.
The Real Ramona marked the perfect balance of Throwing Muses’ angular songwriting and latent pop tendencies. Where Hunkpapa tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to mix these elements, this album succeeds with surreal pop songs like “Counting Backwards” and “Red Shoes.” They’re catchy and riveting, clearly linked to the band’s early material yet more focused and accessible. “Graffiti” and “Two-Step” are two of Kristin Hersh’s most appealing pop snippets, but dark, uncompromising tracks like “Say Goodbye,” “Ellen West,” and “Hook in Her Head” reaffirm that she can still write troubling, fascinating songs like nobody else. And just before she left the Muses to form Belly, Tanya Donelly finally arrived as a full-fledged songwriter with the giddy, gleeful “Not Too Soon” and “Honeychain,” proving that she could be a charming foil to Hersh’s more challenging style. Their final album as a quartet, The Real Ramona highlights the best points of the group’s sound, making it a great starting point for new Throwing Muses fans.
- Counting Backwards: Hell of a good start, and I just took a sip. Wow, this is good stuff (the beer and the CD)!
- Red Shoes: Maybe it was this song that made me want a red ale?
- Golden Thing: I’m reading from the description of the sour ale that I’m imbibing and finding it awesomely accurate:
Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge is a Flemish Sour Ale, red in color with a beguiling balance of malty sweetness and acidic sharpness. It is made from spontaneously fermented and barrel-aged beer of at least 18 months in age. The beer is cooled overnight in a large, shallow metal vessel called a coolship and then fermented and aged in large oak foudres which are made in France and assembled on-site at Bockor.
- Dylan: Haunting. Mellow. Creepy. I like it.
- Hook in her Head: One thing that I love about this album is the fact that even the longer songs feel stripped-down to their core. Self-editing is very clearly on display here.
- Hook in her Head (ps): Okay, maybe this one does drone on a bit. Bummer.
- Honeychain: Do I hear a bit of a twangy swing there in the refrain? Funny how I never noticed that before.
Here is just a sampling of some of the wonderful songs on this album; aplogies for any low-quality videos or broken links in advance: