Thurston Moore’s divorce from Kim Gordon and the subsequent hiatus of Sonic Youth has no doubt left him a changed man. But it doesn’t seem to have affected his creativity. 2011 saw the release of the Beck-produced Demolished Thoughts, an acoustic set that was far from sedate. Moore went for heavy guitar explosives with last year’s self-titled debut from Chelsea Light Moving, made up of young’ns doing his bidding, which turned out to be some of the gnarliest noise he’s ever made.
The 56-year-old Moore is back less than a year later with his latest solo outing, The Best Day, which sees him teaming up with Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe and second guitarist James Sedwards. It’s his most familiar-sounding post-SY record, but it still makes for a satisfying spin.
What makes The Best Day work is that the songs play to the band’s strengths, especially the interplay between Moore and Sedwards. “Forevermore” untangles slowly over the course of 11 minutes, the guitars given ample room to maneuver over Googe and Shelley’s sturdy, yet loose, Krautrock rhythm. “Detonation” also maintains a simple, driving approach for which guitars can play, and Moore’s vocals can slack off. “Tape” comes closest to his work on Demolished Thoughts, with 12-string strums coming together through puffs of hookah smoke. The best comes last with “Germs Burn,” which mixes melodic and crystalline guitar lines with a heavy riff and Moore’s barked vocals. It’s the song that seems to best assemble everything the songwriter has picked up over the past three-plus decades.
Which is sort of how The Best Day feels overall. It may not be Moore’s most reckless collection—in fact, it feels downright comfy at times—but the balance between melody and guitar melee is just right. I saw Moore perform most of the record live a couple of weeks ago, and even when the band was knee-deep in an extended passage, they remained deep in the pocket. In fact, Moore probably couldn’t have picked a better group of musicians to perform these songs. And it speaks volumes.