The Best Day is not the first music Thurston Moore has released since becoming the most famous—and, in some circles, most reviled—divorcé in American indie-rock. It is, however, the first time he’s released a song-oriented album under his own name since his highly publicized split from long-time wife/bandmate Kim Gordon. And given that Moore’s traditionally used these solo albums to explore more intimate, emotionally resonant songcraft than Sonic Youth’s gnarled guitar jams normally accommodate, it’s not totally unreasonable to expect he’d use this opportunity to reflect upon the recent upheaval in his personal life in a more poetic way than contentious interview sound-bites allow.
But with Sonic Youth officially on indefinite—or is it infinite?—hiatus, The Best Day proves to be not so much a revelatory, introspective antidote to Moore’s best-known band as a serviceable, equally high-voltage substitute for it. The album may not approach the metal-meltdown extremes of last year’s one-off with Chelsea Light Moving, but it does leave the drumstick-scraped guitars and humming amplifiers plugged in, displacing the acoustic quietude of 2007’s Trees Outside the Academy and 2011’s Demolished Thoughts with a distinctly Sonic Youth-ian discord.
Now a London resident, Moore has built a backing band that’s a transatlantic mirror image of the Youth’s classic formation, complete with a certified queen-of-noise bassist in My Bloody Valentine’s Deb Googe and a Lee Ranaldo-esque guitarist foil (James Sedwards of long-running U.K. math-punk trio Nought) schooled in both classic-rock tradition and avant-garde experimentation. (Playing the role of drummer Steve Shelley is… Steve Shelley, who—given his unwavering Hoboken allegiances—is presumably being paid in frequent-flyer points.) As such, The Best Day proves to be more of a demonstration of this line-up’s intuitive dexterity than a snapshot of Moore’s inner psyche—it’s not so much a break-up album as a celebration of breaking free.
Moore recently told Rolling Stone that, from the album title to the quaint 1940s-era cover shot of his mom hugging a dog, The Best Day is an album steeped in positivity, with the implication that he’s having too much of a good time in his new life in England to dwell on the past. But it’s a contentment that’s not so much communicated in the lyrics—which adhere to a familiarly cryptic combination of street-hassle spiel and Catholic-block symbolism—as in the freewheeling spirit that permeates these recordings. (Ironically, the few acoustic-based songs that seem to speak most loudly to Moore’s personal preoccupations—like the cassette fetishism of “Tape” and the grrl-power solidarity statement “Vocabularies”—actually feature lyrics penned by London-based poet Radieux Radio, with whom Moore previously collaborated on a 7”.)
Showing off his newly minted supergroup like a recently acquired sports car, Moore leads with his two most imposing, open-ended tracks: Clocking in at a respective eight and 11 minutes, “Speak to the Wild” and “Forevermore” bracingly announce Moore’s return to sprawling, Sonic Youth-scaled guitar odysseys, with an alluring, live-in-the-room ambience that makes it feel like you’re curling up on the pillow weighing down Shelley’s kick drum. But these colossal songs emphasize what separates this line-up from Sonic Youth as much as the similarities. Even when compared to the Youth’s more even-keeled post-2000s output, there’s an almost ominous steadiness to Shelley’s playing here, as he and Googe lay down a locomotive, locked-groove foundation for Moore and Sedwards’ six-string entanglements that’s ultimately closer in spirit to CCR’s extended “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” overhaul.
The FM-radio flashbacks don’t end there: the only way to make the title track’s Keith Richards worship more obvious would be to call it “Stones” (had Moore not already used that name a decade ago), while even the stripped-down “Vocabularies” is centered around a chugging riff oddly reminiscent of “Smoke on the Water”. But while the loose, carefree nature of The Best Day supports Moore’s claim that he’s having “so much fun” playing with his new band, the top-heavy sequence gives the album a lopsided feel, with its two opening monster tracks establishing an immersive intensity that the shorter, scrappier songs in its wake never quite recapture. (Though “Grace Lake”, an instrumental that follows a similar chiming-to-churning course as way-underrated 1998 Sonic Youth epic “Wildflower Soul”, comes close.) Tellingly, in a recent interview, Moore admitted he positioned “Germs Burn”—a more oblique manifestation of his unyielding Darby Crash obsession—as The Best Day’s closer not because its contrast of gleaming guitar jangle and hardcore-inspired staccato phrasing makes for a particularly dramatic finale, but simply because he was unhappy with his vocal performance on it and wanted to bury it. All of which suggests that, with The Best Day, Moore is really laying the groundwork for a better tomorrow.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1sENLXD