Thurston Moore – ‘By The Fire’ review: love and healing from the Sonic Youth man

On his seventh solo album the alt rock mainstay offers the sound of enlightenment to a world in turmoil with help from My Bloody Valentine’s Deb Googe and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley

Thurston Moore has always been a man firmly occupied with the present. The seventh ‘solo’ album from the Sonic Youth founder is not only the latest in his catalogue of precisely sculpted rock and roll, but also some of his boldest and most invigorating work to date.

As a figure who once appeared on the cover of NME in 1992 burning the stars and stripes of the US flag ahead of releasing Sonic Youth’s ‘Dirty’, it should come as no surprise that Moore is a world-weary figure. Though that might have been a somewhat tongue-in-cheek statement, you can’t help but hazard a guess at Moore’s thoughts on the world today. On ‘By The Fire’ though, he’s channeling feelings of positivity and love by means of escapism.

Despite the record being released under his own name, solo work isn’t quite the appropriate label as here Moore continues his fruitful bond with members from his touring backline, featuring My Bloody Valentine’s Deb Googe and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley to name just a few driving forces. As expected, they form a compelling and steady bed for Moore to explore on top of.

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‘Hashish’ sets a patient and precise tone with intricate and pin-point guitar work – there’s a tranquility and ease behind it before lunging in deeper with a growing melody. Then comes Moore’s unmistakable voice and starry-eyed lyricism, drugs acting as a metaphor for the pull of desire; Her love is all that I am needing now/Her drug is all that I am feeling now.” 

With four tracks clocking in well over the ten-minute mark, there’s scope for playfulness and experimentation – ‘Cantaloupe’ comes with chugging Sleep-esque stoner guitar lines while later Moore lets loose with a thrilling rock and roll guitar solo that cuts above the gradual pulsing instrumentation. It’s the first sign that this might just be some of his most daring and fun solo work ever.

‘Breath’ comes as an enrapturing 10 minute epic, cutting bravely from beautifully fragile guitar lines into organised chaos with shredding notes, then a back into a pulsing groove. It’s the sound of someone letting loose and throwing curveballs. ‘Siren’ sticks to the sense of spiritual abandon, not in a hurry to get anywhere and ebbing and flowing, like he’s almost feeling where the track ends up.

A smooth gear shift from 2013’s ‘The Best Day’ and 2018’s ‘Rock and Roll Consciousness’, ‘By The Fire’ manages to stand out with ease. Here Moore elegantly channels his sense of poise and calm in a word going to shit, easily proving why he remains a hero in the world of alt rock.

Details

  • Release date: September 25
  • Record label: Daydream Library Series
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