Former Sonic Youth guitarist, Thurston Moore has released his latest album Rock n Roll Consciousness, under the moniker Thurston Moore Group. Having relocated to London, after the breakdown of his marriage to Kim Gordon, and the subsequent end of their formative and cult '90s band together; Moore has been playing with a new crew, since 2014 's The Best Day. The band includes My Bloody Valentine's Deb Googe; Nodge's James Sedwards; and longtime friend, Sonic Youth drummer, Steve Shelley.
The foursome are currently on tour, to support the five song album - which at first glance resembles an EP, as the bulk of the songs are expansive, stretching from 5 to 12 minutes each. They performed at the Teragram Ballroom, last Saturday, May 13 and pleased fans with their early delivery of dirges with meditative elements, and progressed to more explosive noise rock with a feedback jam, that got ear-splittingly loud.
"Cease Fire," a commentary on gun violence, kicked the evening off. Moore excluded it from the new record as he wanted it to stand a part from the other songs. As a live track, "Cease Fire" brought into sharp focus the ease with which, band members weave around each other's strengths. Seward's fancy fretwork especially, harks back at Led Zeppelin-like power chords when need be; or feathery, and fading into the background when Moore's solo takes centerstage.
Googe's standing as one of the cooler female bassists in rock, a small group which also includes Gordon and The Pixies' Kim Deal, makes her a sight to behold, even if she hardly turned from having her back to the audience. She also has a part-time gig as touring bassist with Bobby Gillespie's Primal Scream.
Rock n Roll Consciousness seems less about our shared rock history and more the Buddhist mantra of mental awareness. As Moore expressed, 'as artists we create beatific music and art, to help soothe, in troubled times.' And indeed on a track like "Turn On," the music did feel like a therapeutic wash of ocean waves, as Moore led with some delicate fretwork.
If you allowed yourself on this trance-like meandering, you might recall gong baths. When the bass stepped up the pace, there was a delightful moment of '70s experimental rock, that, then morphed into a sort of prehistoric awakening. Sedwards and Moore a pair of Tibetan shamans leading forth with their whammy bars.
At the end of the track someone in the audience yelled out, "Good God!" It was the perfect last word on the track's sprawling consciousness-bending, meditation. Moore piped up: "We are Rock n Roll Consciousness, and we are home away from home, here in L.A."
The album was recorded in London at the studio of Adele producer, Paul Epworth, then mixed in Seattle where Moore has a special history with the city and its left-of-field punk roots. It's where his old band’s record label was located, and where they got their label, to sign a young Kurt Cobain, and his band, Nirvana.
Next came the shoegaze-y "Aphrodite" with lyrics, written by Moore's friend; London trans-poet, Radio Radieux. A standout from the album, the Lou Reed-sounding "Smoke of Dreams," ended their set. The band then returned for an encore with the familiar "Speak To The Wild," off their previous album The Best Day.
"Ono Soul" followed and featured a feedback jam that got too unpleasant; in it's sheer loudness and lack of sonority. It began innocently enough with a guitar melody similar to the riff on Blur's "Out of Time," as Moore sang: "Bow down to the queen of noise/ Crayon eyes, draw boys blood/ Pour some of Patti's wine." Off Moore's 1995 debut solo, Psychic Heart which was a femme-themed tribute to Patti Smith and Yoko Ono, it featured some nice guitar work from Sedwards. However, it devolved slowly and ever-louder into unbearable distortion and cacophony that sent us literally, bolting for the doors. But, perhaps that was the desired effect.
“Smoke of Dreams”
“Speak To The Wild”