THURSTON MOORE – Demolished Thoughts (Matador)

As much as I love Sonic Youth, I have never been tempted to try Thurston Moore’s solo outings. This one, however, received a rave review in Record Collector - a journal I can usually trust – and so I decided to give it a try. Helmed by longtime SY fan Beck, the songs on here are a long way removed from Moore’s 2007 collaboration with J Mascis, and yet despite the intricate production they still sound like works in progress to me. ‘Benediction’ starts off with lightly strummed acoustic guitar and Moore’s breathy vocals, and while you are waiting for it to get to the point it just fades way. Similarly ‘Illuminine’, despite a production that includes strings and a variety of other instruments swooping in and out of the mix, does not seem to go anywhere. The first track that shows any promise is ‘Circulation’, with its furiously strummed guitar and urgent vocal, but the strings take away any tension that was built up, and whereas if this was a Sonic Youth track the electric guitars would burst in at the end for an atonal freak-out, on here the track just stops. ‘Orchard Street’ is another song that starts off like an early Sonic Youth piece and while you are waiting for it to reach a climax the strings come in and drown everything out. ‘In Silver Rain With A Paper Key’ has an intriguing title and promises much, but once again the lack of any instruments apart from acoustic guitar and strings just make it sound like it doesn’t really know where it is going. About here I suddenly realised why everything sounded so unfocussed, and that was the complete lack of a rhythm section – I had not heard the sound of a drum and I was halfway through the album. From here on it was all I noticed, and so the last few tracks seemed to drag by in a blur – all sounding pretty much the same, with little melody, absolutely no tunes, and those strings being given way too much prominence. ‘Space’, I suppose, is the exception, where the stripped back sound and sparing use of the orchestra seem to work, but it is also 90% instrumental, and is more of a mood piece than an actual song. As if to make the point of what this album could have sounded like, a bonus track of Woodie Guthrie’s ‘This Train Is Bound For Glory’ is added at the end – just Moore and his guitar, played in a straight folk style, and oddly enough the most enjoyable track on here. So, much as it pains me to say it, I think Thurston should give up on the solo stuff and concentrate on bringing out some new Sonic Youth material, as despite the fact that the band are getting on a bit, their 2009 ‘The Eternal’ album was excellent stuff, and knocked a lot of the younger band’s efforts for six.