Sonic Youth albums always walk a Neil Young-esque tightrope; they’ll always be incredible or truly dire. The possibility of either is what makes the anticipation so amazingly unbearable.
Sonic Youth side projects veer further away from the realm of the listenable than even Sonic Youth noise bleeds. But as Benediction strums like a sun setting straight into the ears, a reverie and energy akin to love at first sight jolts forth. Thurston Moore croons: “Whisper I love you, my darling/One thousand times into his ear” with hushed, warm evocations. This is not to say his prior album Trees Outside The Academy wasn’t pleasant, but Demolished Thoughts embraces melody and romanticism like a confidant.
Demolished Thoughts’ softness highlights much of the appeal of Sonic Youth. For all their spiked noise and invigorating subway soundtracking gusto, they’ve never been afraid to let sensitivity glimpse through their distortion; a sly wink that confirms suspicions that utopia was always their motivation. With Beck behind the desk and violinist Samar Lubelski once more at Moore’s disposal, the album’s autumnal, lilting tone doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Illuminine has Moore’s detuned guitar picking lines that, for their uniquely recognisable timbre, sweep and pluck beautifully, recalling the magical mesh of Pullman’s acoustic arrangements. Even a harp happily cascades behind him.
When songs like Circulation tub thump along they sit clearly under par to the hypnotic waltzes. Not because Moore isn’t the king of creating tension and using discord with endless innovation, even on a buzzing acoustic, but because it feels closer to complacency. Hearing Moore emit the despair of Harry Nilsson is a greater intrigue than hearing him emit the terror of Screaming Fields Of Sonic Love. Blood Never Lies picks its way to a pastoral, Mid-West fantasy sound, a Wichita Lineman or an Over The Rainbow; something new, fascinating and crushing.
Demolished Thoughts shows Moore’s songwriting talent that, as an output, surpasses anything since Murray Street. This isn’t to say The Eternal, Rather Ripped or Sonic Nurse were anywhere near dire, but Demolished Thoughts deserves to overshadow the troubadoring of Fleet Foxes, Band Of Horses or Mumford And Sons. Here is an album that is immediately engaging and yet demands repeated listens just to experience guitar chords from another land. As the closing of January peals the album out it sets as magnificently as it rose. This album will bewitch with the impact of a classic and sets a benchmark to progressive singer-songwriting that doesn’t compromise. Moore has created a thing of wonder.