When you’ve managed to cultivate the sort of cult status now renowned of Thurston Moore and you decide to veer off on some newfangled experimental tangent or other, there are two routes there for the taking: the tried and tested, timeworn path you’ve trudged down umpteen times in your threadbare Chuck Taylor’s, or a screeching careening off into the unknown, perhaps never to be seen in the same esteemed light ever again. The burden of expectation will of course always weigh heavy on the onetime Sonic Youth stalwart, and his is therefore an election between a reverential honouring of the deference perpetually demonstrated by those most steadfast of fans on the one hand, and a violently gesticulated two-finger salute on the other. The eponymous début from Chelsea Light Moving (a four-piece also comprising alumni of Sunburned Hand of the Man and Jackie-O Motherfucker, amongst others) does sometimes err on the side of that more cautious former, though it’s a record not without its flashes of obscenity.
Each of the six minutes to make up Sleeping Where I Fall sounds that bit more odious than the previous, the combined effect that of an objectionable Nirvana offcut whilst the rambunctious grit of Lip (its primary lyrical refrain purely: “Too fucking bad” persistently, and impudently, and ad infinitum) is Moore distilling an expired punk ethos of yore, and aiming to vaingloriously indoctrinate with its tasteless swill as he does so. Scratchy and acidic, it’s pretty horrid. His grim predilection for spoken word then rambles to the fore on the antsy jitter of Mohawk, as he prattles of “imminent delight” and “a prayer come true” over clanking guitar string coils, his apathetic groan disquietingly evocative of that of a certain fellow East Coast mainstay, Mark Ronson. It’s of course fitting that its prosaic strains should segue into Frank O’Hara Hit, an ode to the revered bard of nearby Baltimore, Maryland though as this one slowly chugs into gear like a corroded pendulum screeching ferociously into motion, it only serves to starkly contrast one of the album’s more respectable, with its most reprehensible.
That’s not to condemn Chelsea Light Moving as an LP devoid of inspiration, nor ingenuity – this is Moore we’re on about, after all. And although it may conclude with the abominable CBGB schtick of communist eyes, the prevailing impression is a markedly positive one: the dulcet languor of opener heavenmetal, during which a tranquil Thurston repeatedly implores in a granular moan, “Be a warrior, and love life” instils a sense of cheer incongruous with much of his previous, and one which is upheld by the off-kilt amble of Empires Of Time. Meandering as a grubby trickle down through an impermeable quagmire, it’s as rugged one moment as it is vulnerable the following, as that fabled loud/ quiet dynamic is phased through the dichotomy between scuzzy and fuzz to kindle a fuzzy, heartwarming feeling within.
It only sounds distantly reminiscent of few Sonic Youth recordings, though at that same time at its more refined Chelsea Light Moving sounds unsurprisingly (if only slightly) redolent of Lee Ranaldo’s considerably more consistent full-length effort of yesteryear, Between The Times And The Tides. The crooked slant and askew skulking of Groovy & Linda is one such exemplar, though it also at times sits somewhere uncomfortable between the dissonance of Liars’ Drum’s Not Dead and the unrelenting sludge of the Melvins. Alighted so too straddles the gamut of guitar tones – from squalling feedback, to bright white noise, to torrents of the atonal and back to the melodious, though still agitated – but it’s Burroughs which most brightly inspires. Inspirited by the perennially intoxicated surrealism of Yank novelist William Burroughs, it is not only the album’s most potent moment but also that which is sonically, most closely assimilated to the records of Moore’s youth – to his Teen Age Riot. Which is categorically no bad thing, even though inadequate tracks feature elsewhere…
Released: March 4th, 2013 [Matador]