Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts (Matador)
by Brigette Adair Herron
The message in Thurston Moore’s latest album Demolished Thoughts is subtle, and if you aren’t careful you’re going to miss it. But if you are interested in looking past appearances, or if you are interested in seeking out the kind of answers that are never given without asking, you won’t even struggle with it. You will hardly flinch.
I know a thing or two about demolished thoughts. I know what it feels like to have a wave of intense emotion, like anger, sadness or joy, take over my brain with no logical cause. I have experienced the awareness and flush of heat that accompanies an unexpected impulse.
I have had murderous thoughts about my boyfriend over breakfast. He didn’t do anything. He was just eating cereal. But he was driving me crazy. It had nothing to do with him. I just watched him chew. I had the impulse to smash my cereal bowl and leave the table. When the hormonal wave settled an instant later, all I could think was, “What the hell is wrong with me? Thank god I don’t just do whatever I want whenever I want to”. All I was left with was guilt. My boyfriend looked up at me and smiled the sweetest smile I had ever seen, chomping away open-mouthed, completely unaware of my inner dialogue. I cast the thought from my mind and smiled back.
Some have attributed this phenomenon as a uniquely feminine experience. But regardless of sex, no human is immune to hormone production and activity. This is a part of being human. It is a part of being a biological creature. The mind is a truly cavernous place, and within its confines there’s no telling what might surface uncontrollably behind your eyes; dangerous impulses, attractions, anger, fear. But part of what makes us human is our ability to be conscious of these strange feelings and choose whether or not we will act on them. This is what Thurston Moore is talking about on Demolished Thoughts. It is empowerment through demolition — denying impulse with the power of choice, and it sounds surprisingly sweet, considering the threat of insanity is looming over us all the time.
I need to talk about the sound of the album. Produced by Beck, it doesn’t sound anything like Sonic Youth. Initially, it sounds like a Wes Anderson soundtrack—harps plucking away, twinkling lullabies, pretty string arrangements and an overall airy-wispy ambience. But it isn’t soft like Wes Anderson, even if it is every bit as accessible. And it doesn’t sound weak. It’s like watching a feather blow across a room, land within the gears of a clock and effortlessly shut the whole mechanism down. The sound of the album may not be abrasive, but it is the sound of something coming to a halt.
Take the first track, a sort of two-faced song called ‘Benediction’. It sounds so sweet, so digestible; it makes one thankful for sharp lyrics that hint at the sinister undertones of love. Then the cracks really began to show on ‘Circulation’, and all at once I am truly smitten with this album. It sounds like the turmoil of realising you may be insane.
I love a song title like ‘Blood Never Lies’. It could be referring to the blood that indicates a lack of pregnancy — the blood that confirms disease, or the blood that spills from our wounds. Luckily the song lives up to the title’s expectations.
I was interested in ‘Mina Loy’ even before I heard it. Moore refers to the very real Mina Loy (1882-1966) who was a badass poet and a woman of many demolished thoughts. She was a futurist until she wasn’t. She was married several times until she wasn’t. She saw her child die. She traveled the world, became a lampshade maker and eventually came out as a lesbian. Moore’s intonation, “All she wants is for you to love her without shame”, is truly emotional and moving.
Throughout the album there are moments where it is impossible to distinguish the electronic from the symphonic. It makes me believe that Thurston Moore is truly in love with sound. Even though I was hoping for Psychic Hearts, and its noisy tributes to feminine power, I’m glad it sounds nothing like it. What would be the point? I have it. It’s awesome. In fact for old times sake let’s just consider HOW BRILLIANT this is for a moment.
Anyway, I see how each track on Demolished Thoughts is part of an evocative whole. A statement, much like 1995’s Psychic Hearts, without sounding anything like it. Someone once told me that if you really want someone to listen to you, you should whisper. The logic being that if you whisper, others will inadvertently pay closer attention to your words if they have to struggle a little bit to hear them. I’m not sure if this is always true, but I think it encapsulates what this album accomplishes. You see I’m the kind of girl who prefers feedback to the sound of an acoustic guitar, but I’ve also had plenty of experience being completely underestimated. I recognise the value in going unnoticed — the value of subtlety. This album is an early morning reflection on insanity, menstruation, obsession, temptation, hope and the struggle for inner peace. I don’t think you can make that kind of album by shouting. By whispering, Thurston Moore is going to make everyone pay attention.