Album Review: Between the Times and the Tides by Lee Ranaldo
Very Good, Based on 16 Critics
Rolling Stone - 100 Based on rating 5/5
Lee Ranaldo solo albums generally sound like Telecasters being artfully fed into garbage disposals. With Sonic Youth's future uncertain, the guitar explorer offers a traditional rock LP – at least insofar as his main band now constitutes rock tradition. Past/present Youth-ers (Steve Shelley, Jim O'Rourke, Bob Bert) assist, as does Wilco's Nels Cline, another avant-gardist with a semi-pop day job.
Between the Times & the Tides, Sonic Youth strummer Lee Ranaldo’s latest, was made by a guitarhead—but you won’t hear your garden-variety six-string here. At times sounding like Hendrix operating a theremin, and elsewhere resembling the mournful cries of lonesome satellites, Ranaldo and his fellow freakazoids emit frenzied chirps and peals zip-lining through the cloudy atmosphere wrought by the incredible band. The songs are accomplished and take surprising turns, shot through with a mellow fury that’s endlessly appealing.
With the dreamy, brooding quality to songs like "Mote," "Hey Joni," and "Wish Fulfillment," Lee Ranaldo could be seen as the George Harrison of Sonic Youth, offering a more lyrical contrast to the blunter and more abstract approaches of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. On his solo album Between the Times and the Tides, he expands on those qualities in his music and reveals new ones, inviting friends including Alan Licht, Steve Shelley, Jim O'Rourke, and Nels Cline along to help. Some of these songs could have been fine additions to a Sonic Youth album, particularly "Xtina as I Knew Her" which, with its expansive swath and dark, dissonant solos swirling around the plainspoken clarity of his vocals, comes the closest to Ranaldo's work with the band.
“… it's not a great disaster. People keep talking about it like it's the end of the Earth. It's only a rock group that split up, it's nothing important. You know, you have all the old records there if you want to reminisce.” John Lennon Desperate to maintain some grasp of perspective, I strove to keep Lennon’s words in mind as I soaked the front of my Goo t-shirt by weeping over the separation of a couple I have never met while listening for the fourth time in a row to the entirety of Daydream Nation (double CD deluxe edition).
Temporality has always been a paramount concern in the songs of Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo. There's been a certain devil-may-care loose improvisation at play with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, but Ranaldo's songs are rooted in the bedrock idioms of aging, mortality and vulnerability. Be it "Hey Joni," Ranaldo's anti-Reagan screed on the epochal Daydream Nation, on which he venomously exalted "Hey Joni, put it all behind you/It's 1957," or the ominous refrain of "It's later than it seems" on Sonic Nurse's "Paper Cup Exit," this fixation with time and the inevitable damage done grounded Sonic Youth, providing leavening respites from the sheer entropic chaos at the root of Gordon and Moore's songs.
Now that Sonic Youth are on indefinite hiatus due to Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore's relationship ending, the quiet George Harrison to their spotlight-hogging Lennon/McCartney finally has a chance to showcase his own songwriting in a solo setting. Ranaldo's previous endeavours outside Sonic Youth tended toward avant-garde performances and conceptual art, like his poetry book based on spam, but Between The Times And The Tides sees the guitarist concentrating on comparatively straightforward rock songs with folky undertones. His background role in his influential former band camouflaged the importance of his contributions.
Beats Per Minute (formerly One Thirty BPM) - 76 Based on rating 76%%
Lee RanaldoBetween The Times & The Tides[Matador; 2012]By David Wolfson; March 19, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIndie rock veteran Lee Ranaldo’s music has veered between avant-garde noise and punk-inflected college rock for some time now, both inside and outside of his work with Sonic Youth. In the past, he’s used his solo efforts as a chance to delve into his more experimental tendencies, often meandering through ambient and no wave territory in releases that cannot by any means be described as accessible. No more.
Since we may not be hearing new stuff from Sonic Youth for a while (or ever), it's interesting to see where the individual players are taking the band's sound. Last year, Thurston Moore channeled the band's mood and epic scope through sweeping acoustic numbers on the solid Demolished Thoughts. And now Lee Ranaldo has followed up Moore's Matador release with an album of his own on the stalwart indie label, taking another new spin on the Sonic Youth aesthetic.
New Musical Express (NME) - 70 Based on rating 3.5/5
Strictly speaking it would be a lie to call ‘Between The Times And The Tides’ a solo record, because the former [a]Sonic Youth[/a] guitarist has obviously been getting by with help from some very cool friends (Wilco’s Nels Cline, SY live and late-era bassist Jim O’Rourke and drummer Steve Shelley).It was always rumoured that Ranaldo had to hide his song writing light under a bushel in Sonic Youth, and sure enough here are a wealth of rock gems that shine with a warm-hearted, Neil Young-like intensity. Those wanting clangour and dissonance will be disappointed, but everyone else will be pleasantly surprised.[i]John Doran[/i] .
In the potentially (but hopefully not) post-Sonic Youth world, the solo disc and side project might become even more frequent. The rate at which those albums are honest-to-goodness rock records (rather than spoken-word poetry over a chainsawed piano or some other such awesome weirdness) should also increase, the songs once reserved for the big band funneled into individual projects. So if we’re going to have to acclimate to a world without another album by the band that produced Daydream Nation, look at it as glass half full: An album’s worth of “Eric’s Trip” sounds like an excellent proposition.
Pardon the hypothetical results of a theoretical survey, but if you were to ask all the world’s Sonic Youth fans what the most significant event has been in the last year for that bit of indie bedrock, most will likely tell you-- whine, even-- that Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon are headed for divorce. As impressive and influential as Sonic Youth have been during the last three decades, their married leaders have become icons of a sort, a manifestation of domestic bliss that inspired creativity, not complacence. Of course, some Sonic Youth adherents took the news poorly, interpreting it as a sign that no relationship is sacred, that no artistic bond is strong enough to stand the pressures of a lifetime.
Last October, the future of Sonic Youth was put in question when the band's central couple ended their marriage. Good thing guitarist Lee Ranaldo had his first "song-based solo record" in the works. He has made it with excellent musicians, including John Medeski and Jim O'Rourke, and the diversions into country music on "Fire Island (Phases)" and "Shouts" are agreeable, but the album is more interesting sonically in the tension between questing guitars and straightforward song structures than it is in terms of lyrics, which aim to be down to earth but end up middle of the road.
There's a sticker on the front of this CD proclaiming it to be "Lee Ranaldo's first rock record!" Matador seem at pains to distinguish it from Ranaldo's existing solo back catalogue of more experimental and esoteric releases; hoping, I guess, to seduce casual Sonic Youth fans- who maybe never bothered with any of the SYR off-piste releases, but checked out Thurston's last LP after reading a good review in Uncut- by reassuring them that it really is quite listenable and, even though they may never have bought any of his other weird, limited edition LPs, it doesn't matter and you don't need any of them because, really, this is his first proper album. And, as it turns out, they're quite right and justified to do so. This is a rock record; probably the most mainstream and commercial thing that Ranaldo's put his name to, and that includes Sonic Youth's grunge bandwagon-riding, Geffen-era albums like Goo and Dirty.
Sonic Youth fans clamouring for more than a couple Lee Ranaldo songs per record will be ecstatic about Between the Times and the Tides, a stellar rock'n'roll debut from the gifted songwriter. Ranaldo has been prolific beyond Sonic Youth, but until now, his discography has primarily reflected his interests in noise, jazz and exploratory guitar experimentation. For his first burst of pop songwriting since his band started to seriously slow down (SY's most recent record is 2009's The Eternal, while leaders Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore separated this past fall), Ranaldo enlisted frequent collaborators (Jim O'Rourke, SY drummers Steve Shelley and Bob Bert) and old pros (Wilco's Nels Cline, Alan Licht, John Medeski and Irwin Menken) for a seamless progression into a world of his own.
While the security of his day job may have been irreparably damaged with the break-up of Thurston and Kim’s indie rock fairy-tale, Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo has deigned to release his first proper song-orientated solo album, aided and abetted by avant-guitarist Nels Cline, moonlighting from Wilco, jazz veteran John Medeski and SY alumni Steve Shelley, Bob Bert and Jim O’Rourke. Which, on paper, reads like an avant-rock supergroup, an aspect which makes the fact that this is the most commercial sounding Sonic Youth splinter group since 1992’s ‘Dirty’ seem all the more surprising. Ranaldo’s half-sung, half-spoken vocal delivery has always paled in comparison to Thurston’s hipsters sneer and Kim’s raspy interjections.
Superlative solo songfest from everyone’s favourite Sonic Youther. Spencer Grady 2012 There’s always been that air of expectancy around a new Sonic Youth album which, for many, at least partly focused on the prospect of Lee Ranaldo grabbing some rare microphone time from his spotlight-hogging bandmates and delivering another In the Kingdom #19 or Eric’s Trip. But one track per album was never, ever, enough.