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Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts

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Artist: Thurston Moore

Album: Demolished Thoughts

Label: Matador

Review date: May. 23, 2011

Lost in the squall of the Sonic Youth seal has always been Thurston Moore’s softer side. Sure, we’ve since dubbed him l’éminence rousse of feedback and Jazzmasters, but honestly, he’s really not the transgressed noisenik we’d like him to be. Two months shy of the big 5-3, now, he ain’t exactly George Winston, either. But just like fellow my-band-could-be-your-lifer J Mascis’s solo foray earlier this year, I simply didn’t expect this one to be so, well, Unplugged.

For starters, Beck produced Demolished Thoughts. And regardless of him being a bat-shit Scientologist in real life, as a musician in the studio, Beck’s palette is bat-shit catholic. Might we get some Thurston “Bonus Noise,” a la Stereopathetic Soulmanure? (Moore did pen a liner essay for Odelay‘s deluxe, so there was at least a chance of a Branca-bustin’ cover of "Electric Music and the Summer People.") Second, this is still a Thurston Moore record. And most of his part-time loves — The Bark Haze, Northampton Wools, etc. — have essentially been dirt-kink affairs. But just as skronk would have it, turns out that Demolished Thoughts is more akin to the dub narcotic folk of Beck’s One Foot in the Grave than anything Wylde Ratttz ever did.

Moore gets started bass-ackwards, offering his “Benediction” ahead of the Introit. Unlike the traditional Éireann goodbye, though, there’s no wistfulness. At times bathetic (“whisper I love you 1,000 times”), Baudelairian (“thunder demons swipe her halo”) and BDSM (“hold your lover down, tie her to the ground...scratches spill her name”), it’s a love song only a Richard Kern fan could write. “Illuminine” is a view from the top, where Moore’s scansion often puts the em-PHA-sis on the wrong sy-LLA-ble. Goddesses Mary Lattimore on harp and the violin of long-suffering aide Samara Lubelski give this one a winning sheen.

If we take seriously the disembodied poetics of Moore’s liners (and, nota bene, you probably shouldn’t), here then is how “Circulation” was recorded: “On day three I played the third song, while sitting in the middle seat in the front of a 1978 AMC Pacer with Sparks’ Russell Mael driving...while I sang live the lyrics, trying to focus on the lust-rust blood scent of a city girl on a holy other coast.” Despite this Naropan put-on, it remains a killer driving song, no matter who takes the wheel. Be it Ron’s little brother or Jesus Himself, this is the closest Moore will come to the detuned fury of his patented chug-a-lug. “Speakers forgive lies,” or so goes the chorus.

It’s nearly two minutes before Moore utters another word. And given the delicate textures and close coos of “Blood Never Lies,” I’m OK with that. It’s one of the most classically beautiful tunes Moore’s ever allowed himself to write. (Western Mass. knitting partner Bill Nace shows up as well, but honestly, I couldn’t tell you where, so lost was I in the pre-Rapture harmonies here.) Back on an indie for the first time since perestroika, Sonic Youth’s “Sacred Trickster” made a passing reference to po-mo Francophone Yves Klein. Always apt for any Artforum esoterica, Moore gives “Mina Loy” an entire song to herself this go ‘round. A quartal, pensive "remember when" for those who gave up on him during David Geffen’s dancehall days, it ultimately becomes a "how-to" for those kids trying to follow @gerardcosloy. Bonus noise: Moore’s pitch perfect whistling. It’s like The Scorpions meeting “Jealous Guy” down by the schoolyard.

In the larger scope of Sonic Youth at-large, Thurston Moore’s solo breaks have typically skewed towards the midpoint of the music/noise divide. To wit, there’s nothing here that sounds anything near to the tautological juvenilia of “Thurston@13” from Trees Outside the Academy and/or the experimental jet star of Psychic Hearts‘ "Elegy for All the Dead Rock Stars." Maybe it’s less dangerous, stoopid and contagious in moments. But for this newest gift, I do feel blessed nonetheless. In the end, I guess this largesse just makes me smile.

By Logan K. Young

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