Album Review: Thurston Moore – ‘ Demolished Thoughts’

Sonic Youth’s alternative patriarch blisses out with Beck on this set of winding acoustic reveries

[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.

What, then, are we to expect from ‘Demolished Thoughts’, the newest offering from Thurston? (Like Elvis or Kylie, it’s easier to do this when you have a name shared by almost no-one else.) As it goes, there are clues as to where you’ll find this in the listenability spectrum. Firstly, the nine-track album is being touted as his fourth; actually, it’s his fourth album available to, y’know, buy in a shop. It thus serves as the follow-up to 2007’s ‘Trees Outside The Academy’ – which sounded kind of like [a]Sonic Youth[/a], but more beatific and way less noisy.

Right from the beginning of this joint, namely the sun-blessed bedsit strum of ‘Benediction’, we’re pretty much in that territory, except even further down the line of accessible sweetness. While [a]Sonic Youth[/a] have certainly moved into more classicist territory over the last decade, they’ve also tempered it with stonking slabs of freeform scrawl. The closest we get to this here is ‘Blood Never Lies’, the longest cut at seven minutes, in which Thurston detunes his acoustic and, aided by similarly gnarly harp and violin, flies off into the ozone.

The second pointer to the sound of ‘Demolished Thoughts’ is that Thurston has enlisted Scientologist puppet and occasional musician Beck to produce the album, and borrowed two of his band – Bram Inscore and sometime REM and Elliott Smith hired gun Joey Waronker – as backing musicians. Being in the studio directing one of his NYC alt-rock antecedents doesn’t seem to have fazed Beck, and indeed the marriage of mournful strings and upbeat, tricksy folk-rock (‘Illuminine’, ‘Space’) isn’t a universe away from what Beck turned out on parts of ‘Mutations’ and ‘Modern Guilt’.

That said, Thurston’s inspirations are likely to be more ’70s-flavoured: Nick Drake, Richard Thompson, Tim Buckley and anyone else with the ability to paint friendly, hugely pretty tunes in hyper-trippy coats. If your relationship with [a]Sonic Youth[/a] chiefly consists of boozily chucking yourself around to their sprinkling of indie-disco floorfillers, you may be surprised to know that Thurston Moore can ‘do tender’, let alone do it very well. It would be justified if ‘Demolished Thoughts’ found an audience outside of the long-term SY buffs who were already aware of this.

Noel Gardner

Order a copy of Thurston Moore’s ‘Demolished Thoughts’ from Amazon