Thurston Moore, By The Fire, (Rough Trade)
It’s truly a bewildering thing to behold, especially for members of my g-g-generation who haven’t died before they got old, that our perennial ageless-cool-dude-in-a-cool-band figurehead has become something else entirely as the latter 2010s faded out. That’s right, one time Sonic Youth Thurston Moore is now a divorced 60-something dad singing about hashish and spirit councels. And yet somehow this is in no way a bad thing. As a matter of fact, there are now officially a wide swath of individuals (this is confirmed on Reddit) who actually prefer Thurston’s solo joints to those of the band that made him and ex-wife Kim Gordon the godhead couple they were until, well, they were’t. Although I’m not one of these keyboard warriors (I mean, come on man, Death Valley 69?), that hasn’t stopped me from absolutely loving Moore’s last record, Rock N’ Roll Consciousness, Kim’s No Home Record, and now this sprawling, jammy new delight. The ice-cold “They Believe In Love (When They Look At You)” is a thing of menacing beauty, stacking layers of guitar squalls over a rhythm as minimalist as it is relentless. Lyrics never really mattered in SY’s prime and they don’t matter now, it’s been vibe-over-all from the start, and Thurston whispers “Heart torn up when we’re not side-by-side” like only a man dating women half-his-age possibly could. Moore rocks out more than he has in a while on this one, with “Cantaloupe” coming on all riff-heavy and ready to rumble and “Breathe” actually taking swings at you. In this latter-half of Thurston’s career, however, it’s all about the stoned-out psych and he brings it forth with great aplomb. “Calligraphy” manages to build realms with just a single guitar and bass; “Siren and “Locomotive” are simply epic, with the latter incorporating passages that come dangerously close to doom metal before pulling back into ethereal soundscapes, goose bump music of the highest caliber. Then there’s “Hashish” which, amazingly, actually comes close to evoking the real thing. This is jam band music devoid of blooze tropes and “gee whiz” technical solos, with a darker heart and a heavy dose of desolation, wary but confident, engaged but too cool to show it. It’s Thurston Moore doing what he does best these days, and it’s a well-deserved addition to this list.