On Second Thought: Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts (2011)

The advance publicity for the fourth official solo album by Sonic Youth member/author/art damaged polymath Thurston Moore offered a challenge: You may think you know where a Thurston record does or does not factor into your world, but remember, there are a lot of dimensions to this guy.

Point taken. Listeners familiar with Moore’s previous solo efforts like 1995’s Psychic Hearts and 2007’s Trees Outside the Academy may not have been surprised by the pretty, plaintive, almost folky tunes featured on Demolished Thoughts. Similarly, said listeners might have felt more or less on terra firma when the relatively poppy first half of the LP gave way to riffing and rumblings more often associated with the Sonic Youth mothership.

But upon re-examining this particular Thurston record, I had a totally unexpected epiphany: Thurston Moore is the true keeper of the Krautrock flame.

Before we step through this cosmic revelation, let’s get some preliminaries out of the way. Produced by Beck, the sound on Demolished Thoughts is dominated by Samara Lubelski’s violin, Mary Lattimore’s harp and Thurston’s (often acoustic) guitar. Along with Moore’s hazy subsumed vocals, it’s a sonic signature that evokes a spectral mix of Scott Walker, Nick Drake and Slim Chance-era Ronnie Lane.

But tracks like “Illumine” and “Benediction” also explore Moore’s gentler Krautrock influences — nascent in Sonic Youth at least since Sister. This is not the motorik of Neu or the warm electro of Kraftwerk, but the ethnographic echoes of Agitation Free and the cosmic folk of hippy tripper dreamers Witthuser and Westrup.

“Orchard Street” starts as a loping pastoral with dark undertones. Ever rising violin and guitar hit sonic (youth) heights, launching the song — and the rest of the disc — into outer space. Then we hit “Mina Loy,” the disc’s ominous and hypnotic centerpiece, and we’re treading into darker Krautrock influenced territory — the psychedelic squall of Mani Neumeier’s Guru Guru. It’s one hell of a journey, and we’re dizzy and serene by the time Captain Thurston’s silver machine dumps us in a field somewhere in the inland empire surrounded by scores of crop circles.

With Demolished Thoughts, Thurston Moore paid tribute to his Cosmiche influences, while delivering a disc both trippy and grounded. It remains a soundtrack good for sitting on your front porch swing. Or your next peyote-fueled vision quest.

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Patrick Moran

Chicago native Pat Moran is a filmmaker who has produced and written five feature films, and served as producer and editor for Western Classics, a film series hosted by actor James Best. He also writes about music for Creative Loafing Charlotte. The best job title he ever had was "part-time vampire." Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • http://popdose.com Michael Fortes

    It’s also kind of a downer. It’s Thurston’s ‘Sea Change.’ I like it, but I have to be depressed to appreciate it fully. This became starkly evident when I saw Thurston perform this material at the Pitchfork music festival two summers ago. His was the only set that clashed with everyone else’s vibe. In hindsight, it was obvious that working through his split with Kim manifested itself in this music. It made sense to have Beck produce it, given the brilliance of ‘Sea Change’.

    As you can imagine, I’m digging Chelsea Light Moving way more than ‘Demolished Thoughts’.

    • Pat Moran

      Michael, I agree that “Demolished Thoughts” is a bit of a downer, but it’s a delicious downer – Thurston Moore goes Nick Drake, if Drake had added beat poetry and sudden bursts of noise to his folky inclinations. I think you’re right that Moore was working through swirling, conflicting emotions on this LP, and that it’s reflected in the album’s swirling, conflicted sound. Chelsea Light Moving is much more invigorated, and I love the Germs cover!