dinsdag 20 juni 2017

Rock And Roll Consciousness. Thurston Moore

It's 2017 and like when I recently reviewed my first ever album of Robyn Hitchcock, now I'm reviewing my first album, in whatever guise, of Thurston Moore. Despite being about the same age, as far as I know I never heard one of his records. Somehow all descriptions of Sonic Youth's albums didn't agree with my taste at the time, so I never tried one.

So here comes 2017 and I find a Thurston Moore record in one of the many digital delivery services I am allowed into these days. So I neglected it for a while. And with good reason too, I thought. Curiosity got the better of me though, so I took a listen and much to my surprise I took another one and then another.

Rock And Roll Consciousness is an album on which many different styles of rock come together, but most can be traced back to the time new wave raged in the streets of New York, to be picked up, left behind and mixed with an ever so light psychedelic sauce in the (treatment of the) singing and barely traceable elements of symphonic rock in the way some songs are structured. Add some jazzlike solo textures, some jamming and experimenting and finally The Velvet Underground rhythms and I am getting closer to a description that does justice to what is going on here.

This starts in the 11.33 minutes of opening song 'Exalted'. Layer for layer the song is built up. Guitar after guitar (melody) enters in an intricate composition that slowly plays itself out into a hugely expanded song. 'Exalted', like the state of mind, is not in a hurry to make its point. Slowly the pace quickens and the space in the song narrows down to one focal point. Taking my time in turn, by following the slow changes, I am sucked into the song and ride the waves of change with Thurston Moore and his musicians. And then, finally a lead guitar enters. Like the one in 'Tubular Bells' does after minutes and minutes of interplay of all these instruments. Throw in a dramatic change before the singing starts after the longest of times and I'm approaching a musical high. That part is so direct, that it's almost another song. Drums and bass driven with a strong rhythm guitar. Not unlike the strength of The Velvet Underground. And then it all ends with something Marillion could have played in the 80s or The Who in the early 70s.

So now you know where this prog notion of mine comes from.

With 'Exalted' Thurston Moore touched upon several interesting musical themes, perhaps stumbled upon while just jamming in the studio or not. All these different themes come together in one large piece, that certainly opened me to the rest of the album.

In 'Cusp' it is the rolling drums of Steve Shelley and the bass of Deb Googe that carry the song. A 'Road To Nowhere' rhythm allows for a very tough pace. Where the guitars either follow the pace or go sort of nuts in the background. James Sedwards is unleashed here and there alright. Over this all Moore sings like a male siren, with his light voice that more rides the music than dominates it. Either it is this voice or a grunting maniac that could go with this song. There's simply no in between I think.

With 6,30 minutes 'Cusp' is another long song and with the 10,17 minutes of 'Turn On' it does not get any better for those loving pop songs under 2,30. 'Turn On' is another song that plays itself out over a long period. Small changes come in with every few measures. One of the chord sequences is of the mesmerising kind that I would like to hear forever. Like the solo at the end of Bowie's 'Boys Keep Swinging'. It could go on forever as far as I'm concerned; and doesn't which is it's strength. 'Turn On' does go on, so allows for mood changes at the right points in time. Again prog enters my mind as does Frank Zappa in Sedwards' guitar solo in the song. The tone certainly has that direction. In the meantime it is Steve Shelley's drumming that really decides what is played and how loud. He picks up and sets the drive and stamina of the song.

With two more songs of over 6 and 8 minutes to follow Rock And Roll Consciousness is all but over after three songs lasting close to half an hour. And it isn't as if I'm hearing something completely new. No, several things I'm hearing please pleasant memories lurking somewhere in my head. Like the opening guitar of 'Smoke Of Dreams' brings me back to Nirvana. The way that legendary band could start a song before exploding. Thurston Moore wisely does not follow this track. Restraint is wise here. It is Sedwards who is set free again to play a beautiful solo over elementary chords and rhythm. It all sounds so familiar, yet so good, that I'm again surprised by what is going on here.

The album closes with a song about the woman who walked out of the sea of legends in what is now Cyprus, 'Aphrodite'. By then I have a tendency to have heard enough I notice. Yet, also hear how powerful the song kicks in after the intro. So in the end we are alright.

It's nice to be surprised every once in a while. Rock And Roll Conciousness did just that. Accompanied by a set of fine musicians Thurston Moore has made a fine record on the verge of experiment and rock keeping the right balance the whole time, so very worthwhile listening to.


You can listen to 'Smoke Of Dreams' here:


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