THE ALTERNATE REVIEW Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts (Matador)
The solo record can be a treacherous pursuit.
How are songs to be grown for the solo LP? At what point does the songwriters’ main project consume the lyrics and melodies? And how (or if) to strike out at an sound that orbits your band’s legacy? It’s these kinds of questions that have torn down the best (and the worst) when it comes to the art of the solo album.
Thurston Moore, to his credit, has sailed these choppy seas with assured ease. An able and complicit experimentalist, his free-roaming solo pursuits have both confounded and surprised the faithful. This latest venture comes as a pleasant reminder of why Moore and indeed Sonic Youth have continued to appeal to ears both new and old.
The trick to Demolished Thoughts is its simplicity. Moore’s almost naïve wordplay is a disarming tool. You find yourself getting caught up in the small phrases that seem to elude to larger situations – little word fragments that when compiled seem to mesh into an abstract by consuming image. There are moments of psychedelic vagary, the slight vocal delays and intermittent lyrical twists of ‘Orchard Street’, capturing the moment perfectly. These passages matched with hazy ballads such as ‘Illuminine’, a gentile mediation of light and as Moore notes animal magnetism, make for comfortably compelling listening
The other key ingredient of this record is its production. The partnering with Beck is on surface level is a curious one, offering both equal amounts of promise and potential musical misalignment – but the union is surprising coherent on Demolished Thoughts. Take ‘January’ for instance – here the production is key. Vocals and guitars are mixed to the fore, as though the song becomes some kind of frontal lobe daydream. The miniature Scott Walker-esque string lines offering a floral, but not overly sweet distant distraction from Moore’s dominating acoustic and voice. Much of the record follows this pattern – present acoustic strums and vocal lines, as though Moore is an internal musical monologue, while other musical elements hooking away like ear worms just beyond conscious recognition. It’s a neat trick and one that will no doubt offer surprising discoveries on repeated listens.
Always a pleasure to be reminded how song carries us away to someone else’s inner world.