Thurston Moore's The Best Day is not his best record
Thurston Moore’s latest album, The Best Day, sees him return to songwriting after his public (at least in the alt-rock world) divorce from Kim Gordon, his wife/bandmate/collaborator of nearly 30 years. This separation saw Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo announce the band’s indefinite (infinite?) hiatus.
Oddly, this album sees Moore essentially continue the Youth’s oeuvre, complete with female bass player extraordinaire in Debbie Googe (of My Bloody Valentine). All of the songs feel and sound like Sonic Youth tracks, especially the opening double freak-out of “Speak to the Wild” and “Forevermore”. Combined, the songs fill the first 20 minutes of the record, and from the opening open-tuned harmonics of the former to the fuzzy, discord vamp of the latter, it just sounds like a lacklustre Youth record, lacklustre because that youthful experimentalism has faded. Where “Teen Age Riot” feels like the bubbling guitar is on the verge of boiling over, “The Best Day” simply feels like a simmer.
That’s not to say Moore and co. are just going through the motions. It’s just that we’ve basically heard The Best Day before; simply pick an album at random from his extensive back-catalogue, with Sonic Youth and solo, and it’ll be represented here. The heady jams of the Youth are found throughout the album, from the two opening tracks, the title track, and, aside from the sprinkling of acoustic tracks, into the rest of the album, which is padded out with ‘normal’ sized songs, that average three minutes. This gives the album a top-heavy feeling, its length being heavily skewed to the start of the album, the latter half sort of whizzes by.
Those acoustic songs feature some of the most interesting instrumentation and experimentation that Moore displays here. “Tape” is a misty Celtic sounding song, with furiously down strummed and (of course) oddly tuned acoustic guitars, but they sound light and steely, not thin and bashed. Its opening is a testament to Moore’s now second-nature skill of making the oddest sounds become mundane: I can only describe “Tape”’s opening minute to be the sound of guitar strings strung tightly between to poles and hit with chop sticks.
Those sounds return somewhat in “Vocabularies”, albeit they’re not quite as impressive second time round. And that seems to be The Best Day’s overall issue; the sounds contained within its 50 minutes are great, it’s just they've been done before, and done better, by the man himself. This time Moore seems content with just doing what he’s good at, and the record suffers from an aural case of déjà vu.