Release Date: Oct 20, 2014
Record label: Primavera Sound
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Experimental Rock
Sonic Youth fans divide into those who crave the freaky stuff and those who want the band and its many spin-offs to just get on and play some songs. The latest post-Youth offering from guitarist Lee Ranaldo sits firmly in the latter category. As an indication, there are three pretty straight covers here: songs by Sandy Denny, The Monkees and Neil Young (whose influence on the record is clear).
After Sonic Youth split in 2011, Lee Ranaldo crawled away from the wreckage of the Thurston Moore-Kim Gordon marriage with a thirst for simplicity. He released two albums of straightforward guitar-pop that matched up to Kim or Thurston’s post-Youth projects. Recorded live in Barcelona, ‘Acoustic Dust’ is a one-guitar strum-along that compiles the best of those LPs.
It’s tough being a legend. Inevitably, every step you take will eternally be compared to past achievements and despite Sonic Youth co-founder and guitarist Lee Ranaldo being rather an unsung hero alongside the ex-couple and driving force of the band, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, he’s no slouch when it comes to creativity. After the band’s messy demise in 2011 that became impossible to avoid following Moore and Gordon’s relationship dissolution, ex-members have all had a go at their own thing with largely successful results.
I saw Sonic Youth play live - for the first and, almost certainly, only time - in December of 2010. They leant heavily on The Eternal - probably their last ever record, now - and frankly, they looked knackered. Whether they were already battling with the issue that would ultimately end Thurston Moore’s marriage to Kim Gordon, and split the band in the process, was unclear, but either way, it became clear that even if Moore hadn’t chosen to unceremoniously end his 27-year relationship by way of adultery, Sonic Youth would probably have disappeared for a while, anyway.
It’s not like MTV invented the whole unplugged concept, but they did largely transform the all-acoustic performance into a special event of sorts, creating a niche of its own. Naturally, these can be hit or miss affairs and, almost exclusively, they are of peak interest to fairly serious fans of the artist; not only do you love the artist and their material, you love it enough to want to hear it stripped back, unadorned, and, at times, reinterpreted. Such a prospect is a curious one for an artist like Lee Ranaldo.