KIRSTIN HERSH Strange Angels (4AD)

This here is the second solo album by the former Throwing Muse frontwoman, following her rather good Michael Stipe and Lenny Kaye-assisted 1994 debut "Hips And Makers" and, to be blunt, it’s a bit of a disappointment. That first album wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs, but it did contain moments of fragile acoustic beauty and driven fury that drew comparisons with almost nothing amongst the gamut of female singer-songwriters that had gone before: Patti Smith was probably the only reference point, and that chiefly because of a shared producer rather than anything stylistic.

"Strange Angels" sounds, well, curdled, like an album of songs that weren’t exactly crying out to be written. Occasionally they’ll sparkle dimly with a kind of sophomore kookiness that suggests Beth Orton, namely opener "Home" and "Some Catch Flies", but mainly this album is a sparse, not tune-heavy experience that makes for pretty hard going, a kind of hair-shirt listen that might suggest a kind of nineties version of Nick Drake’s "Pink Moon"...except without that album’s redemptive, healing qualities. After staring into the abyss of "Strange Angels" for three-quarters of an hour the only real conclusion you can draw is that you’ve been wasting time. Which, coming from a lady of Ms Hersh’s undoubted talent, is a shame.