Chelsea Light Moving
I was beginning to think Thurston Moore had gone soft on us. Don’t get me wrong, his softer side is nothing to scoff about. His two solo albums from the past five years have been intimate, atmospheric listens, and Sonic Youth’s two releases in the past decade have been much more stripped down in comparison to the days of Dirty and Goo. But with his recent divorce with band mate Kim Gordon (and probable break-up of Sonic Youth), it seems Thurston has reconnected with his distortion pedal, stirring up the ashes of his bratty brand of disorder on his new project, Chelsea Light Moving.
On Chelsea Light Morning, some may be quick to thinking Moore is going through some type of post-divorce, mid-life crisis, ripping out Bleach-era riffs that are more accustomed to being blared out of a pawn shop guitar than one of Moore’s legendary Jazzmasters. But it becomes quickly apparent that this isn’t an old man grasping for the straws of youth; Chelsea Light Morning is all about having fun, even if it means spending five minutes exploring an old school metal riff on songs like “Alighted” or revisiting a punk rock classic on their cover of the Germs’ “Communist Eyes.” While all of the songs definitely feature Thurston’s signature sound, it’s blatantly clear that fellow band members Keith Wood, Samara Lubelski, and John Moloney have provided a catharsis in the wake of major changes in their front-man’s life.
Rather than dwelling on the end of his relationship and band, Moore has distracted himself with his first loves – art, poetry, and of course, music. Moore’s work with Chelsea Light Moving might be his most poetic in years. On “Mohawk” he resembles a long-lost Jack Kerouac tape, spouting off poetic images of cops, children, and Russian women all mixing in the city. With “Frank O’Hara Hit” he explores the death of New York poet Frank O’Hara, and on album stand-out “Burroughs” he sings of Beat Generation legend William Burroughs while a driving, chaotic guitar riff conjures up images of old Bull Lee shooting up in the bathroom. If you like poetry and you like punk rock – it doesn’t get much better than this.
The album also has its moments of Sonic Youth era dissonance and chiming guitars that, while enjoyable, will have you yearning for Lee Renaldo’s nuanced flourishes or Kim Gordon’s rasping wails. If you’re looking for the next Sonic Youth album, you will be disappointed. However, if you are interested in hearing Thurston Moore have some fun with his friends, pull up a chair and take joy in hearing a 54-year-old man still stoking his youthful fire after all these years.