"Rock n Roll Consciousness" Is Thurston Moore’s Most Challenging Record in Years
The sound of the Youth is evolved and ageless on Moore's latest release, and that’s a good thing.
June 12, 2017 | by Ryan Bray
Rock n Roll Consciousness
By Ryan Bray
We're now a half-decade into a world sans-Sonic Youth, but thanks to Thurston Moore’s prolific subsequent output, it feels like the band’s never left. He wasted little time moving on, taking baby steps out of the band’s shadow in 2012 with the one-off project Chelsea Light Moving, whose self-titled release unleashed the anger and tension that surrounded the band’s dissolve (and Moore’s divorce from singer-bassist Kim Gordon). Much of that anger subsided by the release of 2014’s The Best Day, a more expansive offering and his most restrained since 2011’s acoustic-leaning Demolished Thoughts.
Chelsea Light Moving and The Best Day were the work of a guy trying to make sense of life after an almost-30-year musical marriage. But Moore’s latest, Rock n Roll Consciousness, sounds more in touch with the deconstructionist guitar language he's championed as far back as his days in New York’s early ‘80s no-wave scene. It's still unmistakably the work of the freak-rock provocateur we know and love, but Moore sounds more dialed into his experimental side than on its post-SY predecessors. Rather than choosing between punk fury and artful elasticity, Rock n Roll Consciousness owes quite a bit to both, sometimes within the same song. And it has room to do so, stretching a slight-appearing five tracks into an expansive 43-minute wallop.
Album opener “Exaulted,” one of two songs to cross the 10-minute bridge, shifts all over the map. It’s sweet and subdued to start, before moving into classic guitar-rock and later even doom-like territory. “Cusp” follows a straighter track, driven by Moore’s chugging guitar and longtime Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley’s militaristic snare work. The Television-inspired breakdown on “Turn On,” meanwhile, reveals Moore’s still a Manhattan art brat at heart.
As with most of his work, Rock n Roll Consciousness takes some patience. The songs are fleshed out and freewheeling, more in step with jazz at times than his patented art-rock. But the 58-year-old sounds right at home taking the long road in exploring his avant muse. A title like Rock n Roll Consciousness might sound like hipster jargon, but it’s an apt, zen-like descriptor for where Moore finds himself creatively. Having endured the tumult of personal and professional break ups, he’s emerged on the other side with his freest-sounding batch in a while.