Alternate versions: 'Me and my charms' Kristin Hersh (Hips and makers, 4AD, 1994)

You can come back when you want to
Just know that I’ll be here
I haven’t left this step
And when the lights go out
I pick the angel up
I only have two hands

Is she here? is she here right now?
Drive her off; don’t bother to call
I’m checking out today

Me and My charms
When I kiss the angel I have a taste of you
When I take the angel I have a piece of you
I have a piece

You can come back
I haven’t left you yet
And when the lights go out
I pick the angel up
I only have two left feet
All I have in my hands, me and my charms

When I kiss the angel I have a taste of me and my charms
Me and my charms down on the ground
You can’t leave me now
I haven’t left you yet

Produced by Lenny Kaye, released as a solo artist after her work with Throwing Muses - the Boston group she founded as a teenager, Kristin Hersh's Hips and makers is defined by a series of extraordinary songs; at once ambiguous, heartfelt, plaintive and simple/complex. 

Hersh is a much loved musician, her admirers holding her in a special esteem that reflects the honesty of her work. See, for instance, this celebration of Hips and makers, two decades on, published in UK magazine, The Quietus that includes a touching anecdote where the writer recalls how he reached out to Hersh when his son was critically ill (and how they met and she later dedicated an album to his son). 

Surely the sign of a great song, or piece of music, lies in the way it can prompt points of connection with other artists, while also remaining wholly distinctive. When listening to this I think of other songs that consider the same psychological territory ...

And yet, compared to Radiohead - where the natural elements, the sense of the world breaks down into something raw and elemental and Thom Yorke, drawing as you'd expect on his heritage of English Romanticism seeks communion there  - Hersh's song is intimate, similar to a hand-written note left to be found by chance.

On first listen 'Me and my charms' seems to be so sweet and unaffected, the openness of the vocal backed by the beautiful guitar-line; at some points, discursive, at other points jagged and repetitive. Look at the lyrics and this impression is challenged: is this a fantasy of female self-abnegation found throughout the rock canon: from Hendrix's 'Little wing' on, or something more complex?

Is she here?
Is she here right now?
Drive her off; don’t bother to call
I’m checking out today

My favourite lyrics in this song come towards the end, when Hersh sings: 'You can't leave me now
You can't leave me now
I haven't left you yet ...'

I haven't left you yet

When I was first at university back in the early 90s, there was a real ferment going on in terms of feminist literary criticism, with discussions about the possibility of a feminine aesthetic (largely inspired by French thinkers, such as Hélène Cixous). 

We should write as we dream; we should even try and write, we should all do it for ourselves, it’s very healthy, because it’s the only place where we never lie. At night we don’t lie. Now if we think that our whole lives are built on lying-they are strange buildings-we should try and write as our dreams teach us; shamelessly, fearlessly, and by facing what is inside very human being-sheer violence, disgust, terror, shit, invention, poetry. In our dreams we are criminals; we kill, and we kill with a lot of enjoyment. But we are also the happiest people on earth; we make love as we never make love in life.
— Hélène Cixous

Without wanting to overstate this, as the biggest fans I know of Kristin Hersh are men (though this might not be as contradictory as it seems) I think the brilliance of Hersh's song comes from the way it reflects something that is inherently 'womanly' - here is a 21st pop-version of the same, or similar. 

And the alternate version of 'Me and my charms' - with strings, notice how the music works in a kind of coagulated density, but retains an essential lightness that comes from the water-like movement in circles, while slowing down the vocal delivery.