Thursday, June 04, 2015

Kill Venerate yr idols


It annoys me that, when confronted with a female singer-songwriter armed with an electric rather than an acoustic guitar and songs tinged with anger and regret, critics (myself included) can't seem to help themselves reaching for a PJ Harvey comparison. So I can only imagine how it must rankle with the likes of Hannah Lou Clark, who actually comes closer to sounding like a British answer to Waxahatchee, or perhaps what might happen if Juanita Stein ever left Howling Bells to go solo.

There's great promise in her bluesy, rough-edged, smudged-eyeliner confessionals - not least 'Kids In Heat', the sort of effortlessly simple yet spine-tinglingly memorable single that most artists would kill for.

Regular readers will know that when it comes to Thurston Moore, I'm a drooling, hopelessly smitten, weak-at-the-knees fanboy and have been ever since I first heard Dirty in 1992. When Moore and Kim Gordon - the too-cool-for-school king and queen of alt-rock - announced their split in 2011, and Sonic Youth went on a hiatus that looks increasingly permanent, it was like a death in the family.
When friends break up, you don't want to be seen to be taking sides - but, as intriguing as the arty, esoteric songs Gordon has recorded with Bill Nace as Body/Head are, it's Moore's post-split projects that have really won my affections. Gordon's loss was very much the UK's gain, with Moore now resident in Stoke Newington - which is where he met his latest musical partner-in-crime, Oxford's very own guitar virtuoso James Sedwards.

The Thurston Moore Band are unfortunately named; if anything, that would have suited the short-lived Chelsea Light Moving better. Alongside Sedwards, the supergroup's line-up also features trusty Sonic Youth tub-thumper Steve Shelley and My Bloody Valentine bassist Deb Googe, who, on the thunderous early evidence of 'Forevermore', have quickly formed a formidable rhythm section. Moore, meanwhile, duels with and frequently defers to Sedwards, whose bombastic solo scrawled over 'The Best Day' vividly illustrates what he brings to the party. Sonic Youth were always about chemistry, a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts, and the same is true of this new incarnation.

'Forevermore' is swiftly followed by 'Speak To The Wild', two of the finest songs Moore's ever written - loose, jammy, deftly constructed out of clanging and chiming guitar riffs and motifs that spiral off into dischord and chaos before returning comfortingly back to where they started - though it's arguably an elongated, deconstructed take on 'Grace Lake' that steals the show.

At 56, Moore may no longer be a sonic youth, but, with his metallic pendant, snazzy two-tone trousers, sharp brogues and relatively new short haircut, he still looks as boyish as ever, the lectern for his lyric book the only concession to his advancing years.

This is Moore's first visit to an O2 venue, the walls of which he feels should be covered with the work of local artists ("Black is so over"). A career in interior design awaits, perhaps - though, as the new largely instrumental songs (or "anti-right-wing protest poems", as he would have it) aired tonight make manifest, musically speaking there's still plenty of life left in the old dog yet.

(An edited version of this review appears in the June issue of Nightshift.)

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