I picked up Lonely Is an Eyesore in the import case at Digital Daze before I ever started working there. I listened to Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil prior to this album, but here is where I connected the dots identifying the ethereal, atmospheric sound typical of the 4AD label. Of course, this compilation does its damnedest to disassociate itself from that description by also including Colourbox’s “Hot Doggie”, Clan of Xymox’s “Muscoviet Mosquito”, and Throwing Muses’ “Fish”.
While “Muscoviet Mosquito” is the track I remember hearing played at Thursday’s, the military drums and surreal lyrics of “Fish” are intertwined with both my Akron punk friends and Bowling Green. Back at the CD store, I put this album into rotation as much as any other of the era when it was my turn to pick what we listened to. And, we would sit in my friend Nancy’s basement bedroom and listen to this album alongside Christian Death’ The Scriptures and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Kaleidoscope and Juju.
Once I got to Bowling Green, Throwing Muses became an integral association with Jennifer for me. She played “No Parachutes” off of that same year’s Hunkpapa LP, and the ridiculous obviousness of that song’s opening line (“Pushing a ribcage / Makes it hard to breathe”) quickly seared itself into our lexicon. As far as the band’s Lonely Is an Eyesore cut goes, it sort of became our group of friends’ unintentional theme song. There were three items on our mini-fridge that freshman year (The Year of the Fish?) that tied directly and not-so-subtly to fish….
First, there was a blue crayon rubbing John did of the word “FISH” from a headstone in Oak Grove Cemetery on campus. The cemetery itself was over a hundred years old by the time we arrived. It had a low stone wall along Ridge Street, just west of the Student Rec Center (where I had racquetball class), Moore Musical Arts Center (where I took multiple classes and first met Maria), and the Student Health Services building (where I had to go once freshmen year when I got crazy sick). Oak Grove was a wonderful place to go and wander. I spent plenty of days among the peaceful quiet of the headstones, both alone and with various members of our circle of friends.
Next was a yellow and blue and red handmade construction paper fish by our friend Erin. Last was a handwritten and illustrated fish-related joke from me: “Q: How many surrealist artists does it take to change a light bulb? A: The fish!” I don’t remember where I originally heard the joke (my apologies if you’re reading this and you’re the one who told me it), but it lived on for years in our world.
Throwing Muses lyricist and lead singer Kristin Hersh is just this side of crazy (she’s been very public about her bipolar disorder struggles), and because of that I’ve always given her a pass for her songwriting eclecticism. Much like that opening line from “No Parachutes”, the opening whimsy of “Fish” is one that has always stuck with me, an absurdist statement I have rolled out on numerous occasions (“I have a fish nailed to a cross on my apartment wall / It sings to me with glassy eyes and quotes from Kafka”). And the compilation album’s title is from this track: “Lonely is as lonely does / Lonely is an eyesore / The feeling describes itself.” A wonderfully twisted sentiment.
(Quasi-related side note: Years after college, an installment of Adam and Jeff’s ’80s Alternative Rewind took place when he, his wife, and I saw Bob Mould at the Grog Shop in November 2005. Hersh opened for him with a solo acoustic set. It was a train wreck. We weren’t there to see Hersh, and unfortunately the vibe from her performance carried over for us and Mould’s set ended up being a bit of a disappointment, too.)