For all the downsides of Sonic Youth's members calling an indefinite hiatus on the long running band in 2011, it has allowed the band's member to branch out and try new things. Sonic Youth's three decades of noise rock lasted through New York's undergrounds no-wave heyday, through grunge, MTV and into the digital age. Sonic Youth's distortion and dissonance hast always been a constant, influencing scores of groups in the process.
Free of that influence though still carrying a reputation to live up to, the band members have all embarked on their own projects. Lee Ronaldo has put out two solo albums of R.E.M-esque indie rock, whilst Kim Gordon went down a more experimental route with her more abstract noise project Body/Head. Meanwhile, Thurston Moore has been equally busy, joining two bands Chelsea Light Moving and Black Metal supergroup Twilight over the last three years.
Now he has a new solo album following his last, the Beck-produced acoustic affair Demolished Thoughts, with The Best Day. This new album comes with a few changes, a recent move to London has prompted Moore to gather a new backing band. It's no surprise to see Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley here (he also appeared on Ronaldo's solo albums) but Moore also drafts Guitarist James Sedwards of Nought and My Bloody Valentine's Debbie Googe on bass.
Speak To The Wild begins with echoing harmonics, the guitars chime and ring recalling some of Sonic Youths high points like the Jim O'Rourke produced Murray St. It all follows a simple but driving two chord riff as Moore jumps between lead lines, setting up a melodic tone that much of the album follows. The title track delivers upbeat riffing that recalls early post-punk like Television, with a bit of New York glam-rock power chords, it even breaks into a surprisingly big melodic solo at one point, which might possibly be Moore's most melodic lead line in his thirty odd years and thankfully it never goes to overboard as his cool keeps the whole thing grounded.
The11 minute long epic Forevermore builds on a droning riff with a constant drum beat and Neu!-like repetition. Full of sharp, serrated lead lines and violent peaks, it's exciting and justifies it's length. Detonation manages to recall some of E.V.O.L and Sister era Youth with a downright nasty sounding ascending lead with aggressive more-shouted-than-sung vocals that isn't to far away from a Liars track. The instrumental Grace Lake transforms from a major key the a distortion fed beast that, whilst not doing anything new, has some the the album's best riffs.
It's still missing something from his main band though, maybe the variety of vocalists or the call and response guitar riffs between Lee and Thurston. But there is something here that makes me think maybe it is the kind of record Sonic Youth could still be making. Amongst it all there's Those who are looking for a fix of music from Moore's former band may get it from The Best Day, it carries that noise rock torch and fills it with reflection and hope with a few unexpected turns and a personal feel to what you'd expect from a Sonic Youth record but retaining enough similarity that would have made a worthy addition to their catalogue.