Album Reviews

Thurston Moore – By The Fire – Album Review

Thurston Moore – By The Fire – Album Review
by Killian Laher

With Sonic Youth very much in the rearview mirror, Thurston Moore has released his latest song-based album.  Again working with his band of James Sedwards, sometime My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe and drummer Steve Shelley, the album is Moore in more expansive mode, with four tracks lasting a combined FIFTY THREE minutes.  The opener Hashish is very much a Moore SY-style rocker that he has patented in recent years, channelling anything from 1998’s Sonic Youth track Sunday to more recent solo work like Speak to the Wild.  It’s a showcase for Moore and Sedwards’ Television-style duelling guitars and a heck of a strong opener from a guy who’s no stranger to them.  Moore’s heavier side comes out on the forceful, hard-riffing Cantaloupe, reminiscent of his metal-influenced Chelsea Light Moving project.

After two melodic, accessible and relatively brief songs you begin to think, this could be really great.  But not for nothing has this come out as a double album with only nine songs.  Breath runs just shy of eleven minutes and starts pleasantly with interweaving, trebly guitars before they get harder and angrier.  Just when this is on the point of becoming tedious, drums and bass kick in as Moore is this time joined on vocals by Googe, before we switch between noise workout and another verse, leading to a descent into distorted guitar squeals.  They follow this up with more trebly ringing guitars on the 12 minute Siren, building up gradually over four minutes before the song’s riff properly kicks in.  This section bobs along pleasantly for a couple of minutes before reaching a noisy (and lengthy) crescendo, which gradually falls away leaving another standard issue Moore rock song for the final few minutes or so.  Not one for the impatient!  A bit of respite with Calligraphy, which will appeal to anyone who enjoyed Moore’s folkier solo albums Trees Outside the Academy and Demolished Thoughts

The almost 17 minute Locomotives will be an endurance test for all but the hardcore fans, opening with eight and a half minutes of guitar rumbles.  It’s not quite Metal Machine Music, but it’s not far off, a bit like the midsection of MBV’s You Made Me Realise, before Moore belatedly turns it into a song for 90 seconds or so, and then returning to guitar workout.  Some of the guitar interplay is really excellent, once you sift through the tuneless bits.  Dreamers Work is a very nice piece of solo guitar work with a brief bit of singing, but it’s not really a song, more a few minutes of Thurston Moore showing that, yes, he is a highly accomplished guitarist.  Those who like a good old-fashioned Sonic Youth racket are catered for here with They Believe In Love, this one sounds like the type of song they used to give to Kim Gordon to sing but here, it’s Moore’s song.  Unlike most of the other tracks on this album, this one doesn’t really go anywhere.  Final track Venus is a 14 minute instrumental, consisting mainly of interminable trebly ringing guitars which get progressively noisier.  Certainly, another endurance test, sounds like it was more fun to record than for anyone to listen to.

Full marks to Moore and co for fitting so many inventive twists and turns into each of these songs, however the emphasis here is on arty experimentation over accessible rockers.  So it’s a bit like the quintessential SY solo project, though not always in a good way.  A little more focus next time, Thurston.

Track List: 
1. Hashish
2. Cantaloupe
3. Breath
4. Siren
5. Calligraphy
6. Locomotives
7. Dreamers Work
8. They Believe In Love (When They Look At You)
9. Venus


Categories: Album Reviews, Header, Music

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