Thurston Moore's Chelsea Light Moving keeps artistic momentum
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
There’s likely a built-in audience Chelsea Light Moving, the self-titled debut album from Thurston Moore’s new band. The record and band carry some heavy name recognition within the alternative and indie circles. Part of that audience will be ready to welcome it with open arms before hearing a note. Part will be disappointed in the change in direction. It’s both the burden and glory of bringing so much history into a new project.
Of course this record — Moore’s first with an electric bad since Sonic Youth went on the shelf — was going to resemble some of the latter-day Sonic Youth albums. Moore has long wielded the greatest influence in that band, and here, he presents a stripped-down take on that aesthetic, the more aggressive flip-side of 2011’s acoustic Demolished Thoughts.
And, as it is, Chelsea Light Moving is it’s own work, a piece of art that deserves to be listened to with open ears. It’s new, it’s challenging and, most importantly, it’s good enough to warrant such attention.
“Sleeping Where I Fall” features a built-in speed-noise coda in an extended break that seems destined to rattle club floors. Exploding as it does off of a turntable, it’s not hard to imagine honest-to-god amplification turning that tune into an eardrum buster. The real blast-off, though, comes during “Burroughs,” where Moore works his best scratching guitar noise over Keith Woods’ constant churning chords, building and building until the screeching slams back into verse.
But the great moments aren’t merely limited to the guitar bombs. A pre-recorded interview gives way to the measured pauses of “Groovy + Linda,” which plays like an updated take on “Hits of Sunshine,” with all the appropriate ominous tones and words in place.
“Mohawk,” a slice of poetry sets the ground for a repetitive noise exploration, heavy on drones without drowning the entire production with a sound too thick or obstructive. And for what is a new band making their debut, so to speak, it’s a daring move and a sign that this is not merely a hobby but a vehicle for creation and exploration.
Truly, it’s another sign of life after the end of one band, onto another. But most importantly, the music here is urgent and vital. The same edge that makes the best of Thurston Moore’s music spin from solid to groundbreaking is more than present here. Whether or not the band moniker is truly revealing of a democracy or rather a new direction for its leader, the songs themselves are played with a fury.
Simply, if Chelsea Light Moving was two-thirds of a new Sonic Youth record (factoring in contributions by Lee Ranaldo and Kim Gordon), it would be heralded as another classic from a band of ageless pioneers. Instead, it’s filtered through this, Moore’s new band and the next chapter in his musical life. Moore is an artist, and true artists are restless to create and move their message forward. Whether it’s a deviation or the start of something more, what’s here in the present is more than worth the time, beyond those who aren’t yet in the know.
E-mail Nick Tavares at email@example.com