Release Date: May 24, 2011
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Experimental Rock
Sonic Youth have always had a classier side, but they usually show it on avant-noise collaborations with guys like John Cage or Steve Reich. On his fourth solo disc, SY main man Thurston Moore pursues a softer sort of refinement. Produced by Beck, this is string-laden, serenely pretty chamber folk that can be politely ruminative or drone like Sonic Youth doing an unplugged set.
Contemplating what a Moore record produced by Beck might lead to, there are a few obvious guesses: beats under feedback, maybe something overtly poppy or perhaps an unsurprisingly high-minded “noise experiment.” The result makes sense, too, but is a bit more refreshingly unexpected. What we have here is an acoustic album. Based on the workout Moore has been giving the electric guitar for the past 25 years, it makes perfect sense that the best way to mix things up would be by turning his back on the amps and sitting down with a 12-string guitar.
The first words you're likely to hear in relation to Thurston Moore's Demolished Thoughts are "acoustic" and "folk." Indeed, the Beck Hansen-helmed album was made mostly with six- and 12-string acoustic guitars, harps, violins, bass (sometimes upright), and drums. But to call this record "folk" or "acoustic" is to mistakenly suggest that it's relaxed comfort music from an aging dude who still sings about teenage riots with his hoary rock band. Rather, Demolished Thoughts is as immediate and form-warping as Moore's work with Sonic Youth, comprising nine anxious, charged songs about fleeting time and failing happiness, played with veteran resilience.
It would take a committed contrarian to argue that Thurston Moore’s output is not prolific. His record label, critics and public seem entirely unsure as to how many of the slew of releases he’s stuck out over the years should count as solo albums. A serial collaborator, even when on sabbatical from that big rock band he plays in, we can at least say that Demolished Thoughts is the third song-based collection to come out under Moore’s own name.
Though it’s somewhat surprising Thurston Moore and Beck didn’t work together prior to Demolished Thoughts, their collaboration lives up to its promise, delivering an album of psychedelic chamber folk that is the perfect meeting of both artists’ mellow sides. At times, Beck the producer feels like a junior version of his longtime collaborator Nigel Godrich -- and indeed, Beck brings some of the expansive intricacy of works like Sea Change to this set -- but here he’s truly accomplished, embellishing Moore’s songs with special effects that really are special. “Illuminine”'s rippling harps and sparkling electronics conjure a vast, dusky twilight filled with fireflies, while the strings and layers of other sounds on “Blood Never Lies” float along like pieces of dandelion fluff.
Sonic Youth’s most indelible cultural imprint is their seamless marriage of the avant-garde to the neo-traditional. Dirty, the band’s requisite one-off Butch Vig alliance, and the ensuing brief rise to alt-rock fortune may have temporarily cheapened their style, but it also ensured newly broadened musical horizons for many a young, suburban MTVite. Twenty years later, after most of their peers have either violently burned out or quietly faded away, Sonic Youth soldier on, still carrying the same weight, the same crossover appeal.
Sonic Youth frontman returns with inventive Beck-produced full-length... Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore’s third solo record is a laidback, subdued affair where lilting acoustic guitars are ably complemented by gently drifting strings and dream-like harp work. With legendary musician, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Beck at the helm on production duties, it’s also a greatly varied and progressive-sounding record.
Thurston Moore and J. Mascis are like an indie rock yin and yang. Moore's Sonic Youth and Mascis's Dinosaur Jr. both came up on SST records, and both are considered alt-rock guitar heroes. But where Moore deals in angular riffs and grinding layers, Mascis is all about the big hooks and blistering ….
[a]Thurston Moore[/a] is a cantankerous old crank who is also a living, breathing advert for the sharing, caring ethos of alternative rock. As the main singer and guitarist for [a]Sonic Youth[/a], he’s one of the premier anthem writers of the last few decades of American indie – who spends most of his spare time laying down music which is not so much un-anthemic as entirely without tune, melody or structure. And then releasing it in laughably small editions on labels so underground they’re treading magma.
Mainstream success has mostly eluded Thurston Moore and he’s made something of a career out of being the guy-behind-the-guy that succeeds. Take Beck Hansen, whose stint at the knobs brings us Moore’s third solo long-player, Demolished Thoughts. Beck’s own career and prominence in post-90s altrock limbo can both be said to surpass and be attributed to Moore’s influence, his name without the aid of “Sonic Youth” still relatively obscure.
Thurston Moore's solo album sees him whisper-singing Neil Young-style over acoustics guitars, strings and harp. Sonic Youth fans will hear familiar melodies made gentler by the arrangements. The album proves that guitar distortion isn't necessary for creating sonic experiments. Moore uses unusual tunings and harmonics, producer Beck brings a treated feel to the vocals and instruments, and harpist Mary Lattimore sounds other-worldly.
Reinvention seems compulsory for artists entering the twilight of their career. And while it would be premature to suggest the sun is setting on Thurston Moore’s work as a musician, his recent output has been a conspicuous departure from Sonic Youth’s trashy lo-fi rock. To produce Demolished Thoughts, Moore turned to the delectably eccentric Beck, who tries to elevate the album above standard pseudo-folk fare by peppering Moore’s finely crafted songs with handsome orchestral arrangements courtesy of some very accomplished musicians.
Thurston Moore corralled a pretty impressive roster of collaborators for his third album, the acoustic Demolished Thoughts. Beck produces, and he’s in full Mutations mode, creating a warm backdrop for Moore’s strummy laments. Joey Waronker drums gently when called upon, Samara Lubelski adds swirls of violins over his vocals, and Mary Lattimore punctuates these songs with graceful flourishes of harp.
For all of his eccentricities and insane musical past (playing a guitar with a screwdriver? hammering nails into piano keys? teaching noise music to eight-to-12-year-olds?) Thurston Moore is, as odd as it might sound, in many ways a known quantity. He consistently offers insane, intense, interesting new wrinkles on a handful of different themes, but he’s not going to bust out an R&B opera anytime soon. (Please, please don’t assume any part of me hopes that changes.) So, an acoustic album is as close to left field for the legendary Sonic Youth frontman as we’re bound to see.
My word, this is a long, slow, dull, boring album. And not even in a good way. It’s not dull and boring in a way that’s theoretically cool, like whatever the most recent SYR release is. (Sonic Youth Play the Aleatoric Bell Music of Giacinto Scelsi, I think.) Nor is it long and slow in a way that invites ruminative longing for transcendence, like Alexi Murdoch’s recent folk stunner Towards the Sun.
Whatever the sound of his records, the punk inside Moore still lives. Martin Aston 2011 Given Sonic Youth’s epic 30-year catalogue and his own splurges of mostly improv- and/or noise-based collaborations, you wouldn’t expect Mr Kim Gordon to pick up an acoustic guitar and go all third Velvet Underground album on us. But Moore’s preceding solo album, 2007’s Trees Outside the Academy, contained a handful of dreamy odes, which Demolished Thoughts expands from delicate beginning to serene end.
Thurston Moore might be more recognizable for his noisecraft and his ability to take the fuzziest guitar lines and grind them out into a successful song, but Demolished Thoughts shows an impressively different side of the songwriter. This is the Sonic Youth alt-rock master playing the hand he’s kept close to his chest: Chamber pop courses through the veins of this acoustic-guitar driven outing, and a startling combination of violin and harp adds a stylistic flare that gives Demolished Thoughts a unique signature. But it’s not your usual chamber pop — instead, it’s something more vaguely erotic: The sounds, perhaps, of Thurston Moore and his guitar in a forbidden tryst with the two accompanying stringed instruments.
Matraca Berg Despite all the country hits she has written — for Trisha Yearwood, Deana Carter and Reba McEntire among others — Matraca Berg has kept her distance from the upbeat complacency of the Nashville mainstream. A pensive streak runs through her songs, and she embraces and honors it on “The Dreaming Fields” (Dualtone), her first studio album since 1997. With melodies steeped in hymns and Appalachia, she sings character studies that ponder the inevitability of loss: the end of an abusive relationship in “If I Had Wings” (“We all knew sooner or later/It was gonna be me or him”), a soldier’s mourning mother in “South of Heaven” (“God you gave your only son/Well you are not the only one”), fading beauty in “Silver and Glass,” farms gone suburban in “The Dreaming Fields.