The Best Day (Matador Records)
By: Andrew Grieve
Since Sonic Youth went on hiatus in 2011, Thurston Moore has kept himself busy collaborating with Yoko Ono and John Zorn, as well as moonlighting in black metal supergroup Twilight and his own side-band, Chelsea Light Moving, which released their self-titled debut last year.
Despite Sonic Youth’s rather heady discography, Moore has remarkably only released four solo albums in nearly four decades of musical activity. His first two; Psychic Hearts and Trees Outside the Academy were more along the lines of Sonic Youth, noisy, yet catchy and melodic, not too outside-the-box as his collaborations typically go. His last, 2011’s Beck-produced Demolished Thoughts, was much more subdued and melancholy, with Moore trading in the atypical noise for a more organic, acoustic folk sound.
Moore’s latest solo release for Matador Records, however, The Best Day, is not far from the last Sonic Youth albums that were released in the 2000s or his earlier solo work. Backed by familiar faces such as SY drummer Steve Shelley on Drums and My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe, Moore manages to return to a solo album that mirrors much of his previous work.
If you’re already acquainted with Sonic Youth, The Best Day will seem like familiar territory, for first-time listeners, the beginning may be a bit of a slog to get through, with the first two tracks clocking in at 20 minutes alone, with the rest of the album being far shorter than the beginning.
The album begins with “Speak to the Wild”, an eight-minute melodic jam that sets the tone and mood for the album itself, beginning with a verse/chorus structure, fraying into a psychedelic jam and then closing with a final verse, similar in nature to tracks off of Trees Outside the Academy.
The lead single “Detonation” is a great, speedy attack from Moore and his solo band; close to the music he made while heading Chelsea Light Moving over the last two years. Follow-up “Vocabularies” takes a darker turn, taking a mostly acoustic approach.
Closing tracks “Grace Lake” and “Germs Burn” would fit in great next to Thurston’s originals on the last Sonic Youth full-length, sprawling, psychedelic tracks that manage to get out of control and fall apart right to the point where he and his band manage to spin right back into control.
While one could say Moore very rarely thinks outside of his comfort zone when it comes to original solo work or his time in Sonic Youth, it’s clear that he has refined a sound that only he can make. There will be numerous Sonic Youth copycats, as there has always been in alternative rock; but only one Sonic Youth. Only one person can make that dissonant yet melodic guitar tone, and it’s Thurston Moore. Like other alt-rock luminaries, such as J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. fame, he has found his ground and continues to move forward in a controlled fashion, not too crazy, but just enough to where it sounds like Thurston.
That being said, The Best Day is a great follow-up for fans of Sonic Youth and Moore in general – but as for first-time listeners, this writer would most likely point to a SY album such as Dirty or Rather Ripped if you have an aversion to wordless psychedelic jams.
If you don’t, however, you’re in for a noisy treat.
Key tracks: “Detonation”, “Speak to the Wild”, “Germs Burn”
Listen if you like: Sonic Youth and associated projects, Slint, Television, J Mascis