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This mid-’80s song gave a legendary compilation album its name

In Hear ThisA.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing.

I saw a tweet recently from a record store about a mint copy of the Lonely Is An Eyesore compilation, which was released by 4AD Records in 1987. It’s strange to think how influential a scattered collection of various artists could be back then, and how largely irrelevant compilation albums have become in the age of digital cherry-picking. But Lonely Is An Eyesore was like a calling card for the label’s second era, which launched Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, and the Pixies. (Its first was marked by important releases from Bauhaus and The Birthday Party; lately it’s been releasing albums by The National, Bon Iver, St. Vincent, and TV On The Radio—a pretty good track record, to put it mildly.) 

But more important than those thoughts, seeing the name of the comp made me think of the fantastic song from which it takes its name: Throwing Muses’ “Fish.” It’s a hypnotic, chugging song that nicely complements Kristin Hersh’s weird yowl and inscrutable lyrics: “Lonely is as lonely does / Lonely is an eyesore,” goes the key line. It’s clearly influenced by R.E.M., but the era before that band took a turn toward the musical center. Throwing Muses later spawned Belly and a solid solo career for Kristin Hersh, but nothing quite matched the weirdness of “Fish.”