Thurston Moore Brings the Noise, Sort of
NEW YORK: The Sonic Youth principal sheds the electric fuzz and strums acoustic for a packed house of Academy students.
“Look down there, look at that amazingly ugly crowd,” oneconcertgoer perched in the VIP section was overheard whispering to hersignificant other. And though seemingly based in over generalizedpretentiousness, this onlooker’s observation contained premise; lastnight (Sept. 26), Brooklyn’s freshly renovated Music Hall ofWilliamsburg venue housed a crowd chock full of raggedy, unsightlydudes sporting all flavors of tattered post-grunge garb and appearingto have just rolled out of bed, hair matted against heads across thefloor. And soon, following a brief and drone filled set from openerChristina Carter, one of their own emerged, a near mirror image of hisdisheveled fan base: the towering Thurston Moore. Ah, the ironicglamour of rock stardom.
Moore, supporting Trees Outside the Academy, his first solo outing since 1995’s Psychic Hearts,which marks a departure as he chiefly sheds this electric, fuzzed overnoodling for more conventional songwriting, hit the stage clad inlayers of crosshatched stripes and flannels and without much chatter,kicked into a set showcasing the bulk of his new record. Thoughstripped of an ocean of noise, the chord progressions, high pitchedpings, tunings, and often song structures of Academy give heedto Sonic Youth material, but here, with the volume and chaos toneddown, Moore’s voice and lyrics, as well as the minutiae of hissongwriting, are thrust to the forefront. Along with SY sticksman SteveShelley, Moore and crew, including violinist Samara Lubelski, rolledthrough “Fri/End,” “Honest James,” which featured Carter dueting withMoore offering layers of lyrics — “What’s inside your heart / I’llwill always love you” — and “American Coffin,” all of which stood outas songwriting triumphs of auditory delight.
“I would liketo dedicate this song to all the people who held back from drawingpenises on my face on all of those posters out there,” Moore said tohis rock brethren, referring to the scores of bills surrounding thevenue, “this songs about Ian Curtis.” The band then dove into afizzling acoustic rendition of instrumental track “Free Noise AmongFriends,” bringing smiles to the faces of fans seeking more than aglimmer of SY in the Academy material.
Later, returning to the stage for two encores, the first strolling through a few tunes from 1995’s Psychic Hearts,including “Queen Bee and her Pals,” and the second, a single songoffering, poised Moore solo with just drum accompaniment from Shelleyon the album’s title track, “Psychic Hearts.” Though now on electricguitar, Moore’s voice rose and unveiled itself bare bones, his lyricalprose fired before a crowd of dudes, previously lost in the boyishrocker’s characteristic sonic confusion, but now found.
We asked: Thurston Moore’s latest record, Trees Outside the Academy,is his first stab at chiefly acoustic driven material and thus adeparture from anything he’s previously offered; how do you feel thesenew, different tunes stand in comparison to his work with Sonic Youth?