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This review is from: Chelsea Light Moving (Audio CD)
In recent years, Thurston Moore has been concentrating his musical energies on acoustic projects some distance from the iconic noise on which he made his name as part of Sonic Youth in the 80s. No doubt spurred into action by the likely demise of that outlet in line with his split from long-time wife and band-mate Kim Gordon, Moore is now starting afresh with Chelsea Light Moving, ripping up the restraint of solo efforts like Trees Outside The Academy and Demolished Thoughts in favour of pure rawk.
Moore is joined by Hush Arbors guitarist Keith Wood, Pegasus and Sunburned Hand Of The Man drummer John Moloney, as well as Sonora Pine violinist-turned-bassist Samara Lubelski. All the same, it's near impossible to discuss Chelsea Light Moving without reference to Sonic Youth. After all, Moore is the main Chelsea Light Moving songwriter - it's only inevitable therefore his trademark style rises to the top of the band's mix like some sort of luxurious cream.
There's no surprise then that cuts like "Groovy & Linda" and "Heavenmetal" are so familiar, their catchy slacker-pop melodies total bread-and-butter stuff for Moore. It's comforting too to have his stoned drawl back for these same songs. There's a gateway moment however in the ever-intensifying second track "Sleeping Where I Fall" where the tempo suddenly shifts, allowing barbs of spiky punk and crunching guitar to swarm through and inundate most of what follows. All of a sudden, Chelsea Light Movement are no longer period fetishists, quickly contorting instead into a nasty squalling noise-rock entity.
Not that this slant dulls Moore's carefully styled, alt-culture overlord status. He tackles cult literary icons on "Frank O'Hara Hit" and "Burroughs", the latter of which is an intense, Pixies-esque grunge-riot rife with Moore's signature loud-quiet-loud structures. In turn, "Mohawk" is itself a six-and-a-half-minute, droning spoken-word poem and easily the artiest and most abstract outtake from the album. Hell, even the band name Chelsea Light Moving is taken from a former and literal moving company at which fledgling composers Phillip Glass and Steve Reich once worked.
Elsewhere, the lengthy near-metal "Alighted" is arguably the heaviest noise Moore has ever been associated with. Certainly, its blend of muscular riffs, tense shredding and punishing feedback will work ever-present Moore followers harder than they have in at least the last 15 or so years. Moore digs deep for long-forgotten hardcore homages too in the snotty shape of the partially acoustic "Lip" and with a particularly abrasive cover of The Germs` thrash anthem "Communist Eyes". The petulance of "Lip" though can grate a little when you remember the combined age of those involved.
It's unfair to expect another Daydream Nation or Goo from Moore at this stage of his life, more so when you remember Chelsea Light Moving are not Sonic Youth and that this is ostensibly just a debut LP by a new band. Either way, Chelsea Light Moving is for the most part a solid album on which there are numerous highlights. More crucially still, it and Moore sound tellingly relevant, the opposite of which would perhaps be the worst criticism a man like Moore could ever receive.
Advised downloads: "Burroughs" and "Sleeping Where I Fall".