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Chelsea Light Moving
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Named after the turn-of-the-70s Manhattan removal company run by nascent composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass, Chelsea Light Moving is the latest combo venture from preternaturally youthful, 54-year-old Sonic Youth leader Thurston Moore.
With the day job band on an indefinite sabbatical after the break-up of Moore and bassist Kim Gordon’s marriage, CLM’s debut is not exactly a ‘free again’ midlife crisis record.
But there’s certainly a noisy, carefree, back-to-basics spirit about it that’s a million miles from the Nick Drake-inspired, Beck-produced introspection of Moore’s last solo outing, 2011’s Demolished Thoughts.
Abetted by Hush Arbors guitarist Keith Wood, sometime Jackie-O Motherf***er/Sonora Pine violinist/guitarist Samara Lubelski on bass and intimidating Sunburned Hand of the Man/Pegasus drummer John Moloney, CLM proffer a litany of, by turns, chiming and dissonant art-rock vehicles in the by now grand East Coast tradition.
It’s all overlain with Moore’s signature dissolute yelp of a vocal. Think of a more succinct version of Sonic Youth circa Murray Street and you’re close.
Opener Heavenmetal ushers in the CLM world languidly. Its stoned, slow-tempo rhythm and lattice of interleaved electric guitars sound like Television on diazepam, while Moore’s ingeniously delivered “Be a warrior / Love life” chorus might be a credo for the whole CLM enterprise.
The contrastingly febrile Sleeping Where I Fall ratchets up the obtuseness quotient. Its dissonant post-punk guitars collide like blunted razors over a clattering junkshop explosion of drums, while Moore unleashes a miscellany of eccentric vocal tics. The whole thing sounds not unlike Pere Ubu in their Dub Housing pomp.
Elsewhere, Alighted summons the twitching, glinting ghost of Richard Hell’s Voidoids, but slowed to a narcotic crawl. Burroughs, an unabashed, shoot-up referencing homage to the late Junky author, is a jarring exercise in hardcore thrash at various speeds. It may have been a mite more fun to record than it is to consume.
Such moments of wilfulness notwithstanding, it’s hard not to by won over, once again, by Moore’s indomitable, eternal teenager energy.
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Top customer reviews
I adored Sonic Youth and their insatiable desire to journey into all sorts of waters, chartered and unchartered (check out the SYR series and countless numbers of collaborations and side projects) but found Thurston's solo outings mostly just okay. I was therefore a little surprised by how much I truly enjoyed this and not for the reasons I expected because there's nothing actually that surprising to be found here. In fact, everything is reassuringly familiar but in a good way. It starts unremarkably with Heavenmetal which, initially at least, is inkeeping with anything on Demolished Thoughts but once that kicks into gear there are treats galore thereafter. Without going into a track by track synopsis you'll find all sorts here to delight; pleasing melodies, crunchy riffs, chugging metal, rock 'n' roll, SY flavoured guitar wig outs and bursts of adolescent punk attitude with barely a hint of irony.
All in all, nothing to push the envelope but a great listen just the same and something you'll certainly go back to.
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".
Ok 1) Heavenmetal - Typical SY song, rythmic and nice!
2) Sleeping Where I Fall - I always thought SY sounded like Pavement and Malkmus, this is an amazing example!
3) Alighted - It's growing in each second!
4) Lip - Typical SY
5) Groovy & Linda - Reminded me Lou Reed!
6) Burroughs - Candidate to be a classic
7) Empires Of Time - SY
8) Mohawk - I like this style, speaking, remember Velvet Underground Experiences
9) Frank O'hara Hit - If it is Frank, will be ok!
10) Communist Eyes - Back to the 80's punk Rock!!!
Nice Record!!! Long life to Thurston!!!
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