Mom and Dad Don’t Love Each Other Anymore
The Best Day is an obvious Thurston Moore record: It’s got the lengthy deliberations over spiraling, intricate and often atonal guitar riffs and the dissonant chord changes that we’ve come to welcome since he and Sonic Youth first started showing us this world more than 30 years ago. It’s also pretty much a divorce record, but we’ll get to that later.
What it doesn’t have is the abrasive, leftfield quality that permeated the albums of the pioneering group that Moore and ex-wife Kim Gordon fronted until 2011. The plodding and clean riffs, stalwart ruminations on light guitar histrionics and Moore’s tried and true vocals are comforting and welcome, but this is a record from an institution and not the hungry, iconoclast that splashed his intentions all over the likes of Sonic Youth’s Sister. In many ways, this latest solo effort from Moore is more like that band’s last record, The Eternal. It’s a Sonic Youth record without the youth.
The divorce of Gordon and Moore was famously announced in 2013, with Gordon asserting Moore was living a double-life with another woman. This record sounds itself like a divorce. This is the same house we’ve always lived in. The design is the same, the decorations, too. However, without mom’s presence the house seems off. It’s the same it has always been but it is irreparably changed no matter the facade.
Staying with dad is Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley. In mom’s place (though she will never be replaced) is Debbie Googe, better known as the bassist for My Bloody Valentine. Helping on guitar is James Sedwards, a stalwart on the scene known for occasionally playing his guitar with a power drill.
This record is pretty damn upbeat and the arrangements are skin-tight. Amid the long, drawn-out and intricate guitar stylings that bring the listeners so much joy are happy cuts like “Germs Burn” and the preceding instrumental, “Grace Lake.” Moore’s voice is heavy with life, but on “Germs” it’s a reminder of the rock god’s status as purveyor of not only sonic experimentation but also expert lyricism.
On “Forevermore,” Moore teases otherwordly sounds out of the guitars and chunks it up over Shelley’s splashy support, conjuring up a slow burn for more than 11 minutes. The meditation never unravels, even as the guitar arrangement flirts with coming apart at the seams. Moore sings about loving someone “forever more,” and given the standard Mooreseque themes mined throughout, perhaps he means the fans? Mom and dad grew apart after all those years, but that won’t stop him from loving the kids.
Even if it does sound like an homage to Sonic Youth, all of that is just fine. Moore certainly knows better than most of his contemporaries how to evolve one’s sound gracefully and intelligently while staying away from the embarrassing soundtracks for communities of active seniors into which others have fallen. Even with 50 percent of the band here, Moore tastefully stays away from cynically branding this collection as output from his famous band. Take note, Mr. Corgan.