“Chelsea Light Moving isn’t just a band – it’s an inventor of games. I mean just wood, and coloured plastics. But we’re not selling it. It won’t be available in any digital formats. It’s most decidedly not a war game.”
War has, however, been publicly waged by onetime wife Kim Gordon: the very nucleus of Sonic Youth apparently irreparably split, in a recent and rightly lionised interview with Elle, she told of Moore’s conversely inseparable intimacy with one of his literary collaborators and it was this which eventually forced the wheels from their once holy matrimony. That said stone in the road was, and seemingly still is, Eva Prinz by the looks of it as the pair are seen the following evening sipping on slushy cocktails and choking on cigarettes outside the Southbank Centre. (The couple now even share a surrogate child in the insentient form of the Ecstatic Peace Library, which was reputedly formed as far back as 2010.) But to refocus our attentions on the evening in question, in light of the above it goes without saying that if emerging from a shattered marriage of some twenty-seven years will always be an affair stickier than most iced margaritas, then to at more or less that very same moment fabric a band in the shadow of another as seminally esteemed as Sonic Youth doubtless only intensifies the cultural pressure currently placed upon Moore. He tonight washes up on British shores with his newly formed Chelsea Light Moving creation – who this evening most closely resemble a band, as luck would have it – for their début UK date, and he himself is fairly fortunate for the acolytes are out in force.
There are those that proverbially jizz over the mere sight of his iconically dilapidated Jazzmaster, whilst an hysterical admirer flails wild forearms right under his nose throughout. He’s lavished with odds and sods too, which he duly collects: surreptitious messages scrawled on tiny scraps of garbled paper; furtive stares of uninterrupted awe; a newly pressed 12″. And indeed hallmarks of his previous perhaps inevitably remain: his lofty mic stand that towers some six feet tall, and the largely unemployed lectern which sits beside him almost as though a crutch stand out as immediate exemplars although to an extent, it’s his legendarily cult status that carries him through anyhow.
A louche, nigh on lazy Frank O’Hara Hit certainly sounds as though it could do with propping up but as it sways whimsical as a Shoreditch drunk, it instantly vindicates the by now all-pervasive adoration with Moore’s sneery reciting of what seem diary entries resonating with an intriguing sense of deviant affinity. It’s sludgy, and so too slack although proves tightly inviting at that same time. And the same can be said of the show itself in general: they arrive by no way of an introduction, other than to inaudibly mumble between one another whilst the sound is commensurately loose for the duration. Nonetheless, it’s Moore’s inimitable ability to regiment such lackadaisical musics that can debatably be deemed his most readily identifiable calling card.
And although he can at times seem a somewhat peripheral figure, he’s this evening positioned out front, if never centre. It’s thus quite unmistakably the Thurston Moore show, and even though he may be the only one armed with a microphone his freshly assembled troop prove utterly indispensable, too: bassist Samara Lubelski, or she of “a powerful thirst” according to Thurston, staples down the lower end with aplomb while her rhythmic counterpart, John Moloney, adds a jazzy idiosyncrasy to her prominent strolls around the fretboard. Essentiality notwithstanding though, they look to him for both guidance and encouragement at most sonic turning points.
There are of course umpteen of these throughout the supremely erratic, and invitingly vortical Empires Of Time: heavily indebted to carefree Californian guitar lines one moment and Seattleite sludge the next, their every nifty shift in dynamic is executed with an ocean spray-fresh crystallinity but a little contradictorily, their decibel level ostensibly belongs to this weekend’s Download Festival. It’s devastatingly loud beside the speakers, as they emit a rattling pandemonium to make your ribs recoil and turn to puncture your lungs in revolt. And if more consistent and so too considered than Sleeping Where I Fall, it’s this which witnesses Moore’s reversion to brattish charmer. In doing so, he so convincingly belies his age – he’s now fifty-four, but he here seems fifties going on fifteen. He’s the look of a narked teen to him, albeit one with decades of unequaled technique under his belt: whether this should manifest itself in his smothering of the second fret with a left thumb or his unerringly regular windmill motioning, he remains a strikingly aspirational figure and, for all that, tape still decorates the neck of his resolute Fender.
Indeed as the show wears on, he grows into it as one might organically distressed denim and even becomes something of a poseur. From the strategic pouting to the concerted stares; the cocking of his head to slur sweet spite, to the petulant ejection of his tongue from his jaw his performance proves impeccable as their sound feels purposefully imperfect. And if Groovy may well be done with Linda, Groovy & Linda sees him spit the sort of vitriolic bile traditionally anticipated of, say, Angus Andrew as antagonistic glints flicker in his incisive eyes. It ends in a hailstorm of savage battery, its militaristic salvo of “Don’t shoot!” delivered as though a desperate plea to an armed Gordon.
A terse Lip meanwhile, “a protest song for Pussy Riot” two of whom are incidentally interviewed this very weekend at the Southbank Centre no less, feels positively phat and resolutely scatty as Chelsea Light Moving relocate to a scrappy punk aesthetic, and with a mellow middle eight squidged in for added texture, never more precisely does Moore resemble an intemperate giant.
However it’s arguably previously unheard material which proves most enlightening in our quest for a better understanding of the oft inscrutable colossus before us. “Don’t worry – it’s not a poetry reading” he reassures us ahead of a radical musical reimagining of “fucked up poet” John Donne’s The Ecstasy. “If any, so by love refined/ That he soul’s language understood/ And by good love were grown all mind/ Within convenient distance stood” he recites from his regularly neglected lectern (“we refuse to learn the lyrics to songs we didn’t write” he vows somewhat insurgently) and, stood in such close proximity, Moore here appears considerably more lover than Lothario. Similarly, although he’s been known to freely dabble in his poetic fancies to a sometimes egotistical degree, this setting to song feels infinitely more rewarding still.
A dizzying, slowly accelerative and appositely euphoric piece, it revs us up for the punitive feedbacking and deeply incongruous dance-punk grooves to another new one in Sunday Stage. This and that thus proffer an auspicious impression as to that which is yet to come in the wake of the eponymous début though engrossing as these may be, it’s only during a stilted Alighted – one which itself seems strangely tricky to really get into the swing of live – that you really notice a true stasis to have stagnated offstage. Akin to a volatile giant, an infidel, a Lothario and a lover all in the one evening therefore, by these mucky closing moments he so too comes to bear semblance to the mythic cockatrice for stare too long, and it’s as though we’ve been petrified by his sobering presence. And yet despite this apparent inaction, a strange sense of unification is allowed to culture.
“You’re never really alone” Moore intones, his vocal growing increasingly grizzly as it here turns barbed and hooky. He’s not wrong either, for we came to get enlightened and to bask in his indelible distinction, and it’s this which remains undiluted even when he’s witnessed salaciously grinding an unbranded amp in a linen shirt rendered translucent with sweat by the ferocious process. “We’re called Chelsea Light Moving, and we’re from London” he rallies and although not strictly untrue since his migration to Stoke Newington, there’s little doubt lingering to suggest we’d rebuff the opportunity to promptly embrace them as our own…