March 26, 2001 12:00 PM

Kristin Hersh (4AD/Beggars)

On her fifth solo album—her fourth in the four years since she left Throwing Muses, the Rhode Island alternative band she co-founded in 1980—Hersh proves that a quirky, intriguing singer can successfully spin herself off from a quirky, intriguing band. Hersh, 34, has developed into an engaging singer with a slightly husky voice and quiet, understated style that at times evokes the softer side of Stevie Nicks. Her version here of Cat Stevens’s “Trouble” suggests untapped blues impulses that might complement her vocal talents. As for the album’s other 11 songs, all of which she wrote, suffice it to say that as a lyricist she’s a pretty good singer. She uses obscenities like punctuation, as if to prove how liberated she is. She also tends to overdo what she calls her “oh my stupid life” songs. A typical example is “Flipside,” which in her press notes she calls her “yay, I’m not dead!” song. Then there’s her observation that her tunes “could have been written by the Monkees but only if something really horrible had happened to them.” Too bad she didn’t apply that humor to her songwriting.

Bottom Line: Ex-Muse needs muse

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