Thurston Moore returns to rock with Chelsea Light Moving
In December 2011 Sunburned Hand of the Man headed up a night at London’s Café Oto, with supporting sets from Samara Lubelski and Keith Wood’s Hush Arbours. But the great atmosphere that night was really down to the presence of Thurston Moore, garnering hushed anticipation from the crowd. Wood and Lubelski delivered their unique (if rather dull) takes on psychedelic folk, before Sunburned Hand of the Man (including long-time drummer John Moloney) delivered an electrifying improvised set supplemented by Moore’s angular guitar and vocal contributions. Unbeknownst to the crowd, they had in many ways just witnessed the debut of Moore’s first fully-fledged rock band since Sonic Youth went on hiatus only a few months earlier.
Chelsea Light Moving consists of Moore (vocals, guitar), Keith Wood (guitars), Samara Lubelski (bass) and John Moloney (drums); their self-titled debut was recorded by engineer Justin Pizzoferrato (MV&EE, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth). Two factors have dominated the buzz around the album. Firstly, Moore’s aforementioned return to the rock band format since Sonic Youth unofficially broke up in 2011. Secondly, that the album is littered with references to American Beat and counter-culture, with songs such as Burroughs and Frank O’Hara Hit. The bands sound does in a way feel like Sonic Youth minus the other members, though this is not a bad thing.
The music is heavy and dramatic, losing none of the energy that permeated Sonic Youth’s later releases. While the pace and atmosphere sit comfortably alongside The Eternal or Rather Ripped, the psychedelic credentials of Moore’s bandmates and Pizzoferrato’s unobtrusive production make this a wholly distinct affair. Moloney’s drumming in particular contrasts Steve Shelley’s hard-pounding punk with a lighter and more learned approach – never too aggressive, yet enough for some good headbanging. Wood’s shoes are perhaps the most daunting to fill, but surprisingly the off-key psych-folk singer proves his worth, adding enough colour and fuzz to cement Thurston’s disjointed downtown approach to guitar playing, lighting up the album’s many instrumental passages.
With all the power and drama of Sonic Youth, and the added calm and cool of the psychedelic American underground, Chelsea Light Moving’s debut plays so well it’s easy to forget that its members ever did anything else.
Chelsea Light Moving was released on 5th March. For further information about Chelsea Light Moving visit here.
Watch the “officially unofficial” video for Burroughs here: