Sex! Babies! Rock 'n' Roll!

Featuring seductive bits of electronica and lounge music.

I once asked Kristin Hersh a stupid question. (Luckily, she was more gracious

in her reply than the next musician I tried it on, who sighed, sneered and

flatly refused to answer it.) "What are the three most important things to

know about you?," I asked. The then-Throwing Muses frontwoman cackled and

crowed: "Sex! Babies! Rock 'n' roll!" Listening to Sky Motel five

years after she volunteered that trinity, it sounds as if nothing has

changed.

"I crave an empty lifestyle/ I crave the very loudest sound," she sings on

the opening track "Echo" (RealAudio excerpt). But like it or not, Kristin Hersh is a bona fide

grown-up, with adult responsibilities. Now in her mid-30s, she's got three

kids and has spent more than half her life as a card-carrying alt-rock chick.

(At the age of 14 she founded Throwing Muses with her step-sister Tanya

Donnelly.)

Lyrically, Hersh pares down her words with a poet's eye for economy. While

Sky Motel doesn't "rock" in the involuntary air-guitar sense of the

word, Hersh writes songs that can rock you to your foundation. The song

"White Trash Moon" (RealAudio excerpt) is an idiosyncratic lullaby: "Your mama's here and your

daddy's hot ... out of the chaos, my us, and your little fontanel."

Meanwhile, a spooky guitar line hangs in the air like snaky lines of

lightning in a distant thunderhead. Sly humor creeps in when she advises,

"try not to stare at the neighbor's underwear ... under the horny sun of

July."

The band -- Muses drummer David Narcizo, keyboard player Robert Rust and

guitarist Tom Gorman -- hangs tightly together, but it's Hersh who is

consistently mesmerizing. On "Caffeine" (RealAudio excerpt)

she manages to make the line, "The

best of us puking, the rest of us not doing so well," seductive. It's a vivid

image that makes you want to meet these people, puke and all. When she sings

"I wish we were boring, it's so much easier," we sympathize, but don't really

believe her for a minute.

During that long-ago conversation with Hersh, I told her that her music is

the sound of a woman who slishes when she walks. She still is: The song "Clay

Feet" finds her "scooting around the linoleum on all fours" and there's a

horn-dog feeling to several of these tracks. By the end, we're left with an

itch that needs scratching alongside the sated feeling that comes from

soaking up the sound of one woman's heart laid bare without

apology.