Here’s a question that every indie rocker can answer: “Where were you when Sonic Youth broke up?” Yes, it was publicly stated to be a hiatus; however, the dissolution of a marriage isn’t exactly a trite issue, hence it being three years running since the closest thing that old school alternative music had to rock stars.
Not that this has slowed down Thurston Moore. The singer, guitarist, and ubiquitous songwriter of the band that birthed Daydream Nation released a set of acoustic guitar rock a scant five months before the public announcement of the break-up, collaborated with Yoko Ono and ex-bandmate/ex-wife Kim Gordon on Yokokimthurston, and started a new band under Chelsea Light Moving. And now he’s back with another release, billed as a solo album: The Best Day.
Moore said it best on the title track: “Here’s a man who has done it all.” That’s pretty much what one can expect on The Best Day: from the drone rock textures of the 11-minute Forevermore to the acoustic guitar-lead Tape, The Best Day touches all of Moore’s three decade-plus career. It’s instantly recognisable as his work: the capricious melodies that characterized the EVOL-Sister-Daydream Nation triumvirate are easily spotted in Grace Lake and Germs Burn.
The Best Day has some of the longest tracks in Thurston’s discography. The first two, Speak To The Wild and Forevermore, take up 20 minutes out of the album’s 50-minute running time. Speak To The Wild has some of Moore’s strongest riffs since Rather Ripped. The lead guitar plays the perfect mix of post-punk/no-wave dissonance and American East Coast alternative rock, with a bit of bass-note crunch thrown in for good measure. Forevermore’s cyclic structure will surely be appreciated by fans of Cross The Breeze. It’s best experienced as loud as personally bearable, and it never feels bloated despite the eleven minute runtime.
There are a couple tracks of straight up pop! Detonation and the album’s title track scream for radio play, featuring catchy melodies and surprisingly unironic solos. Detonation is slightly marred by questionable lo-fi production that is at odds with the rest of the tracks. It’s muddy and grimey, whereas the rest of the album is comparatively shimmering in clarity. It’s obvious why Moore titled the album The Best Day, as the respective track is simply anthemic.
Vocabularies and Tape are this album’s reserved acoustic numbers. Vocabularies has some creaking sounds in the background and a steady build up that climaxes (relatively speaking) with lyrics by Moore, but it isn’t enough release nor enough development and ends up being rather dull. Tape is unsettling and dissonant, but with a melodic bass line that provides a solid foundation.
Closing tracks Grace Lake and Germs Burn are straightforward alternative Rock. A slow-guitar burn shows up midway through Grace Lake that would fit quite well in The Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream. Moore shouts – actually shouts! – on Germs Burn. They are both decent tracks, if feeling a bit stale in comparison to the rest of Moore’s discography. They deserve a couple listens, but not much else.
The Best Day celebrates those post-punk/alternative rock flourishes that make it feel like a Thurston Moore album instead of a half-baked Sonic Youth album. Whether or not there’s anything here that hasn’t been made prior to 2014 is another story, but The Best Day is neither derivative nor weak. In fact, it’s another enduring release from an always reliable rocker.